On December 15, 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened after remaining closed to the public for 11 years. See if you can make the grade on these trivia questions about this landmark that is known throughout the world...
How Long Did It Take to Build the Leaning Tower? Including the amount of time work was stopped due to conflicts and wars, it took about 200 years to build the tower. Construction on the tower began in 1173. It took five years for workers to make it to the tower’s third floor. By that time, it had already started to lean due to the soft ground. Internal conflicts within Italy brought construction to a halt until 1272. Twelve years later, construction on the tower was halted again because of war. This time, construction did not begin again until the early part of the 14th century. The Leaning Tower was finally completed in 1372 when the bell tower was added.
Did the Tower Always Tip Toward the South? Shortly after construction of the tower began, it began leaning toward the north. However, as additional stories were added, the tilt began to change direction. It leaned more and more toward the south until it reached 5.5 degrees. This was beyond the angle professionals said would make the tower collapse, but surprisingly, it didn’t come crashing down. For this reason, the tower was closed for repairs.
Which Italian Dictator Tried to Repair the Leaning Tower? In 1934, Benito Mussolini hired engineers to try and straighten the tower. Their solution was to drill lots of holes into the ground and pump in mortar. This solution didn’t work. In fact, it made the problem worse because the weight of the added cement caused the structure to lean even further.
Are There Any Buildings That Lean More Than the Tower of Pisa? Yes, and both of them are in Germany. One is a church tower at Suurhusen in East Frisia. Oak tree trunks were used for the foundation in the marshy area where it was built. When the water was drained, the tower started leaning. It officially holds the Guinness World Record for tilting because it leans 1.2 degrees more than the tower in Pisa. A leaning tower that is part of Oberkirche church at Bad Frankenhausen in Northern Thuringia was mentioned for the first time in 1640 when someone wrote about this curiosity. The tower is out of line by about 4.6 meters, so it also tilts more than the tower in Pisa.
Why Was the Tower Closed in 1990? The 190-foot tower constructed of marble had reached a point where it was off by 15 feet and was in serious danger of collapse. Just the year before, it had been visited by one million people who had climbed its 293 steps to see the view but was deemed too dangerous for this to continue. The tower remained closed until mid-December 2001. Weights placed by engineers on one side of the tower and excavation of soil underneath it caused the tower to tilt back into a more stable position.