ITALY, Dec 2: The iconic Garisenda tower in Bologna, Italy, which has gracefully leaned for nearly 1,000 years, is now facing a potential threat to its stability, prompting the city to initiate a civil protection plan. The looming possibility of a “sudden and unexpected collapse” has led to the decision to construct a protective metal cordon. This safety measure is designed to contain potential debris, minimize vulnerability to nearby structures, ensure the safety of the population, and restrict access to the off-limits area, as announced by the city council.
The metal cordon, firmly fixed into the ground, will include specially designed rockfall protection nets, also made of metal and anchored to the ground. A 27-page report from the scientific committee, overseeing the site since 2019, raised concerns about the tower’s safety, classifying it as being on “high alert.” Experts believe that safety conditions no longer permit operations on or around the tower without implementing a civil protection plan.
Recent monitoring has unveiled an unexpected and accelerated trend of compression at the tower's base, leading to the gradual disintegration of the stone cladding and expanding cracks in the brick structure above. Ongoing consolidation efforts have been halted, and an exclusion zone will be promptly established. While officials clarified that the tower is not on the verge of immediate collapse, precautionary measures are in place with a “yellow” alert status.
Bologna's famous “twin towers,” including the 48-meter Garisenda, were built in the 12th century, shaping the city's skyline. The Garisenda, leaning at a four-degree angle, stands as a testament to the city's historical architectural landscape. The tower's lean has been a characteristic feature since the early 14th century, vividly described by Dante in “Inferno.”
Mayor Matteo Lepore's decision to block off the area around the towers in October, initially for research purposes, proved crucial. Acoustic sensors and a pendulum were installed to monitor structural integrity, revealing increased compression at the tower's base and a significant shift in its lean. Conditions have steadily decreased since July, with the gradual disintegration of the rock and vertical cracks in the tower's bricks, observed since 2020, now worsening.
Published on November 15, the report confirms the tower’s “inescapably critical condition,” suggesting that past interventions, including a steel rod “hoop” in 2020, aggravated the situation. Extreme weather events, such as high temperatures and flooding, have also contributed to the deterioration, according to the council spokesperson.
Materials for the protective cordon will be delivered soon, with completion expected by February. Renderings reveal bright red barriers around the Garisenda, a temporary measure as stipulated by the report. Once installed, research will be conducted in two phases: stabilizing the tower and addressing underlying issues. The first phase may involve creating a metal “cage,” while the second phase sparks debate on potential solutions, including dismantling and rebuilding.
The substantial cost of the protective cordon and stabilizing efforts, amounting to millions, has prompted the council to launch a fundraising campaign. The online fundraiser, with a 3 million euro goal, has already garnered 800,000 euros in a week. The speakers emphasized the twin towers' significance, extending beyond heritage preservation, as they are integral symbols of the city's identity and cultural value.
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