Only in Bologna, I think, it can be said that the towers were walking.


Photo Alberto Rossi

What I’m about to tell you is not a legend, it really happened, and if you were to pass through Strada Maggiore on August 12th 1455 you would have seen it too!

The bell tower of the church of Santa Maria della Magione protruded in the middle of the street, hindering the passage, that’s why Achille Malvezzi, knight of San Giovanni di Rodi, under whose jurisdiction the church was located, commissioned the young engineer Aristotle Fioravanti to move the tower.

Fioravanti had already distinguished himself years before for having contributed to the installation on the Arengo tower of a huge bell, replaced after a few years with an even larger one and weighing 12.000 lbs. Malvezzi, struck by the ability of the young Fioravanti, decided to assign him the difficult task.

An excavation was then arranged around the foundations of the tower, whose “move” was scheduled by August 8th and a large number of very curious people gathered to attend the event. Shortly after the start of the work, however, it began to rain and some beams broke, causing the inclination of about half a meter of the bell tower towards the church. The works were suspended and Aristotle Fioravanti immediately began to start to straighten the tower while no one believed any more that he would succeed in the enterprise.

Four days later, the move was resumed and the crowd came back again. To reassure the most skeptical ones Aristotle Fioravanti had his son climb to the top of the tower that was dragged without further problems for 13 meters and remained there until 1825, when it was demolished.
In Strada Maggiore you can still today find a plaque with the inscription: “In the year 1455 Aristotle Fioravanti bolognese with new daring here transported intact for more than 13 meters the tower of Santa Maria della Magione 25 meters high that was demolished in 1825”.

After this demonstration of geniality Aristotle Fioravanti was called to work in several cities, even in Venice, to straighten towers and more, but he also worked very hard as a hydraulic engineer, especially for Francesco Sforza, the lord of Milano.

Too much fame, however, also attracted the envy of many and with them the charge of being a forger. That was why Fioravanti quitted Bologna and went to work even for the Tsar of Russia Ivan the Great.


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