Anyone who has visited Bologna has undoubtedly visited: the Garicinda Tower, which, with the Asinelli Tower next door, has defined the city’s skyline for thousands of years. The two towers, each leaning in a different direction, are the most visited monuments in the Italian university city.
But since the end of October, Bologna’s greatest pride has also become its greatest concern. Garicinda’s slope, which is similar to that of the Tower of Pisa by about four degrees, appears to have increased.
The square surrounding the towers was cordoned off and bus lines that used to pass through the busy intersection were diverted. “The tower can stand for centuries, but also for a few months,” the city council said.
Cleto Carlini says the Garicinda ship is being closely monitored. Bologna’s public works engineer oversees dozens of construction sites across the city from his office on the eighth floor. However, for the past two weeks he had been working exclusively in the Medieval Tower.
“Like all tall buildings, it has normal cyclic motion,” Carlini says. “We monitor this through devices including pendulums, optical measuring devices, acoustic measuring devices and groundwater meters. A number of these devices indicated last month that the tower, which always slopes towards the east, has begun to lean more towards the east. South.”
Since then, Bologna has remained hypervigilant. “We used to receive a report every six months from scientists studying the tower, and now it happens every week,” Carlini says.
However, no scientist can say for certain whether the tower is about to fall or not. “The truth is that the tower is tilted by three meters, is a thousand years old, and is made of a material that is eroded by weather conditions.”
City guide Katia Aliberti says that such a falling tower would not be unique in the history of Bologna. “We have documents from the Middle Ages describing how 37 people died when a tower fell. Bologna once had ninety towers, now only 22. Not all of them fell, but it tells us something about stability.”
The guide shows that the mud buildings were built mainly in the 12th and 13th centuries. “With a military function, but above all as a status symbol. If your zodiac sign is the highest, it sends a clear message about who is in charge in the city.”
Dante, Goethe, and Dickens
This was also the purpose of the Garicinda Tower, built around 1109 on behalf of the family of the same name. “But it actually became crooked right after construction,” says Aliberti. “We know that it was already shortened by about ten meters at that time because it was leaning so dangerously.”
But the rest of the tower remained standing. Garicenda has captured the imagination for centuries, especially with the taller Asinelli tower next door, which slopes slightly in the other direction.
in Divine Comedy, written by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri in the 15th century, mentions the Garicinda Tower as a leaning tower. Later Goethe and Dickens also wrote on this topic.
We are working with a centuries-old building. It will likely become clear in this process that other interventions are also necessary.
Securing the tower is certainly the city council’s ambition. “We will first build a protective structure around the tower in the coming months, so that restorers can then work safely,” says Public Works Chief Carlini.
However, the method they will use to achieve stabilization has not yet been determined. “A group of scientists are busy trying to figure this out. Most likely, a special type of mortar will be injected into the base of the tower, because it is partially hollow. If it stays that way, it could be a relatively simple process.”
But Carlini doesn’t assume that. “We are working with a centuries-old building. Perhaps it will become clear as we progress that other interventions are also needed.”
Corona Recovery Fund
The most likely scenario is that work on the tower will take years and cost millions of euros. Poland may want to rely on funds from the European Coronavirus Recovery Fund for this purpose.
City guide Katia Aliberti thinks so. “The towers have always been part of the political, social and cultural fabric of the city,” she believes. “The Garisenda family in particular is an icon. Their care should be the highest priority.”
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