Friday, May 30, 2008


ROME - ENGINEERS declared that their efforts to keep Pisa's tilting tourist attraction from toppling have paid off.

For the first time since the 12th century, the bell tower has finally stopped moving and is safe from the law of gravity for the next three centuries.

'All of our expectations have been confirmed,' Professor Michele Jamiolkowski, an engineer and geologist who has been monitoring the iconic Italian tourist attraction for at least 30 years, was quoted as telling Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

The tower's tilt of about 4m off the vertical has remained stable after a big engineering project that ended in 2001 corrected its lean by about 40cm from where it was in 1990 when the project began.

Now we can say that the tower can rest easy for at least 300 years,' Prof Jamiolkowski told the paper in an article published on Wednesday.

The tower was off-limits to visitors for almost 12 years from 1990 - when it was sinking about 1mm a year - and reopened in December 2001 at the end of the biggest phase of the consolidation and restoration project.

The 14,000-tonne free-standing bell tower, an internationally recognised architectural symbol of Italy along with Rome's Colosseum, was built in several stages between 1174 and 1370.

It began to tilt after completion of several storeys, due to unstable ground.

The Times of London said conservationists had estimated that the entire structure would collapse 'some time between 2030 and 2040'.

Builders at first used trapezoidal stones to return the structure to the vertical but the tower continued to lean.

During the stabilisation phase of the project, which ended in 2001, the structure was anchored to cables while cement was injected to relieve pressure on the ground.

The lean of the tower is now considered safe and is about what it was in 1700.

Restorers are now using specially designed, lightweight scaffolding made of an aluminium alloy as a base from which to clean the tower's white and grey marble.

Officials have said over the years that they have no intention of straightening the tower, which would detract from its unique status and tourist draw.

Astronomer Galileo, who was hauled before the Vatican's Inquisition for his view that the Earth revolved around the sun, is said to have used the tower of his home town for experiments on gravity.


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