Bologna, is the Garisenda tower about to collapse? The Municipality takes action

Gianluca Riccio

Architecture

The famous leaning tower of the Garisenda could collapse at any moment: countermeasures are being prepared in Bologna.

The Garisenda tower, the ancient stone sentinel that stands in the heart of Bologna, is a giant in the balance. After dominating the city's skyline for nearly a millennium, this historic emblem now faces its greatest threat yet: the risk of sudden and catastrophic collapse.

It is an alarming situation that raises concerns among citizens and public bodies, and also raises a broader question about our responsibility in protecting cultural heritage.

Garisenda, a thousand-year history

The history of the Garisenda Tower has its roots in the 12th century, a period in which Bologna was a sort of medieval Manhattan, with local families competing to build ever taller towers. The Garisenda, with its four-degree inclination, is one of the few survivors of that era, a silent witness to past eras and stories.

In recent years, however, the tower has shown worrying signs. In a recent report published on November 15, experts point to the acceleration of the tilt and the appearance of cracks in its foundations. An "inevitably critical" condition for the structure. And the “protective” interventions carried out in 2020 would actually have made things significantly worse.

For this reason, the city of Bologna has launched a civil protection plan in an attempt to deal with this emergency.

Bologna Garisenda Asinelli Towers
The “different twin” towers of Bologna, Garisenda and Asinelli.

An emergency plan

To protect the tower and the surrounding population, drastic measures were taken. A metal cordon will be erected around the tower to contain debris in the event of a collapse and limit access to the danger area. This much-needed measure is expected to be completed by February 2024 and will temporarily change the historic appearance of the site.

The fate of the Garisenda Tower raises crucial questions about the conservation of our cultural heritage. How can we safeguard these historic monuments without compromising their integrity or public safety? The answer requires a delicate balance between respect for the past and the need for innovation and security. We must protect the integrity of the monuments, but also be ready for "decisive" interventions to protect them.

The Garisenda Tower is more than just a building: 48 meters high stands a symbol of Bologna's cultural identity. His loss would be heartbreaking for the entire community.

Garisenda
Garisenda Bologna
The perimeter planned for the protection cordon around the Garisenda. Images: Municipality of Bologna.

More details on the plan

Once the protective cordon has been completed (which protects homes and people nearby from sudden collapses), solutions will need to be put in place. These could include the creation of a metal “cage” around the tower to stabilize it, and deeper interventions to resolve underlying structural problems. Other hypotheses? The reconstruction of the base, or the reduction of the height of the tower, as occurred in medieval times.

The costs for the conservation of the Garisenda are significant. The protection cordon alone will cost around 4,4 million euros, and the stabilization interventions will require "millions and millions" more. For this reason the municipality has started an online fundraiser, underlining the importance of everyone's involvement.

In just one week, 800.000 euros have already been raised: if you want to help or find out more, find it all here.

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