A historical site turned Instagram photo background, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a sight to behold, but it is often relegated to being the butt of an age-old joke. Is that person really holding up the tilting tower? Completed in 1372, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has a storied history that’s painted all over its lopsided construction.
While it’s not difficult to determine something went wrong during its build, there are far more fascinating facts about the Italian tower.
Benito Mussolini Was Ashamed of the Tower
When Mussolini took over Italy and aimed to strengthen the presence of fascism, he targeted different aspects of the country. As odd as it may seem, among them was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. According to Mussolini, the tower wasn’t the best symbol for Fascist Italy. Ashamed of the historic structure, he ordered that the tilt be reversed.
Under Mussolini’s orders, engineers drilled into the foundation. Approximately 200 tons of concrete was poured into each hole in an attempt to correct the slant. Once the concrete was in place, Mussolini saw a change in the tilt, but not the one he sought. The Leaning Tower of Pisa fell another few inches south, increasing the tilt.
It’s Not the Only Leaning Tower
Though the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most well-known structure, it’s far from the only tower built on unstable ground. There are 10 leaning towers in Italy, including Campanile of San Nicola, Campanile of San Michele degli Scalzi, and others in Venice, Bologna, Caorle, Burano, and Rome.
Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, many of them were built on ground that can’t sustain the weight of the structure. The Campanile of San Martino, Santo Stefano, Basilica di San Pietro di Castello, and San Giorgio were constructed on the soft grounds of Venice.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is joined by two additional leaning towers — Campanile of San Michele degli Scalzi and Campanile of San Nicola.
The Lean Direction Has Changed Over Time
It may seem implausible, but the Leaning Tower of Pisa hasn’t always tilted toward the south. In attempts to completely fix the original slant, engineers have frequently implemented different techniques. Original attempts were thwarted by the center of gravity, and recent plans led to the Leaning Tower of Pisa switching which side it leaned toward.
In 1995, one method involved freezing and use of steel cables. The result was an increased lean. While some attempts have led to worse results, crews have been able to correct the tilt marginally. Ultimately, engineers have been able to return it to the degree of tilt it was at in 1838.
It Took 200 Years to Built
On August 14, 1173, construction on the Leaning Tower of Pisa began. What could have been a relatively simple job was exacerbated by the ground of Pisa. The soft soil led to immediate issues as the tower started to lean well before construction was close to being completed. Marshy terrain proved unable to sustain the weight of the tower, and as building continued, the tower started to sport its signature tilt.
When builders realized the structure was tilting, they stopped building. For almost 100 years, the unfinished tower was abandoned. Construction stopped in 1178 and didn’t pick up again until 1272, leaving nearly a century-long gap. The tower was finally finished in 1372.
Will the Tower Ever Fall?
Considering the degree of the tilt, it’s inevitable that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will collapse without proper intervention. For now, we get to enjoy it in all of its tilted glory, but according to Livescience, experts believe the tower has only another 200 years left, barring accidents with building maintenance or a permanent fix.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a part of Italy, one of many landmarks that tourists flock to in order to capture the perfect gag photo of themselves “lifting” the Leaning Tower of Pisa.