Matteo Lepore compares project to save 12th century Garisenda tower from collapse to 10-year effort to preserve the tower of Pisa
Work to prevent the collapse of a leaning medieval tower in the heart of the northern Italian city of Bologna will cost €20m ($21.5m) and take 10 years at least, its mayor has said.
Last weekend, the city unveiled a €4.3m (£3.7m) project to shore up the Garisenda tower – one of the city’s two towers that look out over central Bologna, providing inspiration over the centuries to painters and poets and a lookout spot during conflicts.
Like the more famous Tower of Pisa, it has leaned for centuries, as the ground on which it was built gave way soon after construction. The area around it was cordoned off last month, due to rising concerns among experts about the risk of collapse.
The Garisenda slants at 4 degrees, compared with 3.9 degrees for Italy’s more famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
“I think we will spend no less than €20m, maybe more” to restore and consolidate the tower, mayor Matteo Lepore was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying in a press conference at Bologna city hall.
“For the tower of Pisa, it took 10 years for the intervention and the [restoration] project. We have no reason to say it will take us less,” he said.
The 12th century Garisenda is one of Bologna’s two towers, measuring 48 metres and standing next to the taller Asinelli (97 metres). The much-loved landmark is cited several times in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and Le Rime, and Charles Dickens wrote about it in his Pictures from Italy. The Garisenda was also referred to in Goethe’s Italian Journey.
Italy’s civil protection agency has put out a “yellow” alert for the area around the two towers, meaning it is under watch, but thought to pose no immediate risks for people’s safety. There are two possible higher alert levels, “orange” and “red”.
Lepore said in a debate earlier this month that the Garisenda tower had leaned since it was built “and has been a concern ever since”. It sustained additional damage in the medieval era when ironwork and bakery ovens were built inside.
“We inherited a situation that over the centuries has caused this illness,” he said. The mayor has asked the government to petition to make the towers Unesco world heritage sites.
Work to reinforce both towers has been ongoing since the 1990s. Preliminary work on the Garisenda tower will include creating a containment area to prevent any damage to nearby structures or harm to passersby from a “possible collapse”, the city said in a statement. Video cameras will maintain surveillance of the site.
The Garisenda and Asinelli towers are named after the rival families who built them, believed to have been a way to compete over their power and wealth, and are located at what was the entrance to the city. The Garisenda was originally 60 metres tall but had to be lowered after it began to lean.