First built to safeguard surrounding areas, towers have been built by mankind since prehistoric times. Over the last two millenniums, we’ve seen all sorts of towers being built such as clock towers, minarets, communication towers and bell towers. But not all towers stand up straight; some famous towers around the world happen to tilt over time, largely as a result of construction blunders and natural disasters. Sometimes, even if the structure is built properly, changes in the environment can cause buildings to sag anyway.
Here’s a list of 12 famous towers that started straight, but eventually tilted.
Belfry of Bruges, Belgium
This medieval bell tower, also known as Belfort is situated at the center of Bruges and is one of the most famous architectural structures of the city constructed in 1240. The 83-meter tower suffered from lightning and fire several times in its history, burning down the wooden spire. Eventually, the tower was left spire-less after the last strike in 1741, making the tower shorter than it originally was. The tower also leans about 35 inches (87 cm) to the east and is open for the tourists for a fee.
Leaning Tower of Torun, Poland
The Leaning Tower of Torun was built in 13th century as a part of the city walls. Although straight originally, the red-bricked tower started to lean due to the instability of the ground and is currently 4.8 feet (146cm) tilted towards the side of the street. The tower was also utilized as a prison for women in the 18th century and later for accommodation purposes. It currently houses a café and Torun Cultural Department.
Oberkirche of Bad Frankenhausen, Germany
One of the famous landmarks in the town, the leaning tower of Oberkirche church in Bad Frankenhausen was built in 1382 by the members of Christian Salter’s Guild. The tower started leaning by 17th century because of sinkholes around the area developed due to salt mining. The spire is already tilted 4.6 meters from the line and is leaning by about 2.4 inches annually.
The Two Towers of Bologna, Italy
Asinelli and Garisenda, the Two Towers of Bologna are among the few medieval towers left in the city built by the two competing families as status symbols. While both the towers were of the same height originally, the Garisenda tower had to be shortened in the 14th century due to its dangerous lean that resulted due to an unstable foundation. Both the towers are tilted though with Asinelli tower having a tilt of 1.37 degrees and Garisenda leaning at 3.8 degrees.
Big Ben, UK
The Elizabeth Tower that stands at the north end of the Westminster Palace was actually built for the great bell clock that’s considered as one of the most accurate four-faced clocks in the world. But apart from being one of the most popular landmarks in London, the tower is also leaning gradually. In 2011, engineers figured out that the tower is tilting 1.5 feet from the original position and is expected to get worse each year. Surveyors believe that the tilt is mainly because of decades of underground excavation. However, it may take 4,000 years for the tower to slant completely at the current rates.
Leaning Tower of Nevyansk, Russia
The Leaning Tower of Nevyansk was built in the 18th century by Demidov family. However, much of the history of this tower remains unknown till date, including its exact built date and the purpose it was built for. Even the reason for the tower’s lean is unknown, which is 7 feet out from the vertical. There’s also a mysterious square room inside the tower where you can whisper to another person by standing in the opposite corner.
Leaning Tower of Suurhusen, Germany
Dubbed as “the most tilted tower of the world”, the Suurhusen church leans at an angle of 5.19 degrees. The tower is standing on the oak tree trunks and it began to lean in the 19th century as the groundwater that was preserving these trunks was drained out. While this 90 ft tall church was closed in 1975 for safety reasons, it was reopened after 10 years.
Oede Kerk, Netherlands
The Oede Kerk (Old Church) was originally built as a Roman Catholic Church in 1246 and was later converted for Protestant during the Protestant Reformation. The tower started leaning immediately after it was built and is 6.5 feet away from the perpendicular. The tower houses a giant bell that’s rung only on occasions due to the fear of damaging vibrations.
Temple Church, UK
Bristol’s Temple Church was built on the site of a previous church of the Knights Templar. The church leans at about 5-ft off the vertical and the reason for the tilt is presumably due to the soft alluvial clay underneath the structure that got compressed. German bombings during the World War II also caused irreparable damage to the church’s interior. The building is now under the care of English Heritage.
Albert Memorial Clock Tower, Northern Ireland
Located in Queen’s Square, Belfast, Nothern Ireland, this 113 ft tower was completed in 1869. The contractors used wooden foundation for the tower on a muddy ground, which caused the tower to lean immediately after it was built. The lean got worse progressively and the tip of the spire is now 4-ft away from the center.
Leaning Temple of Huma, India
The Leaning Temple of Huma is located in the Indian state of Orissa and is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. While the main structure is inclined towards the riverside, another temple in the same campus is tilted in the opposite direction. Built during the 17th century, the reason behind the lean of the temple is still unknown.
Huqiu Tower, China
The 157-ft tall Huqiu Tower was built between 959-961, on Tiger Hill, situated in the city of Suzhou, China. The tower started leaning in the 17th century and is tilted by over 7.5-ft due to the foundation on which it is built. Being partly on rock and partly on soil, two of the supporting columns developed crack while carrying the weight of this 7,000-ton tower.