The Leaning Tower of Pisa isn’t leaning so much anymore.
Experts have revealed the world-famous tower in Italy has lost 4cm of its tilt* and is no longer in immediate danger of falling over.
At one point it was feared the white marble 56m tower would crash to the ground, but a series of restoration* projects over the past two decades has halted the slant and it is now thought to be reasonably stable.
A team of specialists led by professor Nunziante Squeglia, a geotechnics* expert at the University of Pisa, have announced the findings after a 17-year study.
He said the tower’s health was better than forecasted, and added “the stability of the bell tower is more than expected”.
The 800-year-old tower was closed to the public for 10 years in the 1990s as part of a $A39 million rescue plan to halt the lean.
Cables were used to secure the monument* and the stairs, which offer tourists a breathtaking view of the rolling Tuscan countryside.
The lean is as old as the tower itself, having crept in five years after construction* began in 1173.
The layer of clay and sand the tower is built on is softer on the south side than the north — so by the time builders got to the third storey, shifting soil had unsettled its foundations. It’s lean at that time was about 11 degrees.
Since it was built it has survived four major earthquakes and experts say its lean is now just under four degrees and it is off centre 4m from vertical.
Giuseppe Bentivoglio, from the Opera Primaziale organisation that preserves the tower said: “It was on the verge of collapse, but we managed to stop the tilt and secure it.”
More than a million people a year visit the tower, which is a UNESCO* World Heritage site.
- tilt: lean
- restoration: repair works
- geotechnics: study and modification of soil and rocks
- monument: a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event
- construction: building works
- UNESCO: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
1. Which country is home to the tower?
2. How tall is it on its tallest side?
3. How old is the tower?
4. How much is it leaning now?
5. It was closed to the public for how many years?
1. Measure this
There are lots of building measurements and facts and figures given in the article about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Use these figures to write some mathematical questions for a classmate to solve. Your classmate will need to read the article as well to answer the questions. Make sure you are able to solve your questions and keep the answers with you so your classmate can check their work.
An example could be — What is the difference in height of each side of the tower?
Write at least 5 questions. Then swap with a classmate to solve their questions.
Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Humanities — History, Mathematics
Use construction materials that you have available to create a scaled down model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction materials you might have to use could be craft sticks, toothpicks, recycled cardboard and plastic boxes, plasticine or a combination of these or other materials.
Create your tower so that it has a lean similar to the real tower (use the information in the article to help you determine how far to make your tower lean). Hopefully you don’t need supports to keep your tower from falling!
Time: Allow 60 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Humanities — History, Technologies — Design and technologies
Extra Resources: Construction materials to create a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you ever seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa or another famous overseas monument. What did you like about it?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.