Italy steps in to avoid leaning tower of Venice
VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - One leaning tower is enough for Italy, according to local authorities in Venice who plan to reinforce the foundations of St. Mark's bell tower to stop it falling down.
The 99-meter (324 ft) campanile which dominates Venice's main square has long been known to contain a crack, but only now have authorities decided to act to ensure it does not get any bigger.
"When you have things like this, we can't know exactly what's going to happen," said Ettore Via, who as curator of St. Marks is in charge of conservation of the basilica and its bell tower whose history goes back to the 12th century.
The bell tower was built after the existing 16th century structure collapsed in 1902. But the new tower was found to contain a fissure, discovered in 1939, which is very slowly spreading.
The work will involve wrapping a titanium belt around the tower's foundations, between 1 meter and 3.5 meters (3 and 11 feet) below the ground, at a cost of 6 million euros ($7.78 million).
The project will start within the next 6 months and take a year and a half to finish.
The tower is not the only architectural treasure in Venice under threat.
The entire city -- built on a lagoon and crisscrossed by canals -- suffers from periodic flooding. The government has just begun a multi-billion euro floodgate project aimed at stopping rising sea levels destroying the town.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Tuscany, owes its characteristic lean to poorly made foundations. Conservation work has ensured the 12th century bell tower does not fall over.
Click here for images of St. Mark's