Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens 2001
On this day in 2001, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after a team of experts spent 11 years and $27 million to fortify the tower without eliminating its famous lean.
In the 12th century, construction began on the bell tower for the cathedral of Pisa, a busy trade center on the Arno River in western Italy, some 50 miles from Florence. While construction was still in progress, the tower’s foundation began to sink into the soft, marshy ground, causing it to lean to one side. Its builders tried to compensate for the lean by making the top stories slightly taller on one side, but the extra masonry required only made the tower sink further. By the time it was completed in 1360, modern-day engineers say it was a miracle it didn’t fall down completely.
Though the cathedral itself and the adjoining baptistery also leaned slightly, it was the Torre Pendente di Pisa, or Leaning Tower of Pisa, that became the city’s most famous tourist attraction. By the 20th century, the 190-foot-high white marble tower leaned a dramatic 15 feet off the perpendicular. In the year before its closing in 1990, 1 million people visited the old tower, climbing its 293 weathered steps to the top and gazing out over the green Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) outside. Fearing it was about to collapse, officials appointed a group of 14 archeologists, architects and soil experts to figure out how to take some–but not all–of the famous tilt away.
Though an initial attempt in 1994 almost toppled the tower, engineers were eventually able to reduce the lean by between 16 and 17 inches by removing earth from underneath the foundations. When the tower reopened on December 15, 2001, engineers predicted it would take 300 years to return to its 1990 position. Though entrance to the tower is now limited to guided tours, hordes of tourists can still be found outside, striking the classic pose–standing next to the tower pretending to hold it up–as cameras flash.
(More Events on This Day in History)
- 1791 The Bill of Rights becomes law
- 1896 Stephen M. Balzer patents rotary-engine auto
- 1864 Battle of Nashville, Tennessee
- 1978 United States announces that it will recognize communist China
- 1988 James Brown begins his prison sentence
- 1999 Heavy rain leads to mudslides in Venezuela
- 1791 Bill of Rights is finally ratified
- 1961 Architect of the Holocaust sentenced to die
- 1973 Billionaire’s kidnapped grandson found in Italy
- 1993 Schindler’s List opens, wins Spielberg his first Oscar
- 1936 George Orwell delivers the manuscript for The Road to Wigan Pier
- 1944 Legendary bandleader Glenn Miller disappears over the English Channel
- 1890 Sitting Bull killed by Indian police
- 1998 U.S. House of Representatives recommends impeaching Clinton
- 1973 Jockey Sandy Hawley wins record 500th race
- 1965 U.S. bombers strike industrial targets in North Vietnam
- 1969 Nixon announces additional U.S. troop withdrawals
World War I
- 1915 British begin evacuation of Gallipoli
World War II
- 1945 MacArthur orders end of Shinto as Japanese state religion