Thursday, October 02, 2008

The most lopsided tower

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the most lopsided building of the world is no longer the tower of Pisa, but a church tower in the German village of Suurhusen, in the far North-West of the country. It is measured leaning at a 5.19° angle compared to only an 3.97° angle at which the tower of Pisa leans.

[Photo: Church Website]

The church was built in middle of the 13th century, the tower was added in 1450. The tilt of the tower is thought to arise from a combination of its oak wood foundation and wet soil.

However, as Craig Whitlock from the Washington Post reports, this caught by surprise the inhabitants of Bad Frankenhausen, whose "Church of Our Beloved Ladies by the Mountain" is tilded only by 4.4° but is twice as high. So the locals want their church to be acknowledge as the "World's Crookedest Tower".

Germany, the land of crooked and tilted towers ;-)


  1. A nice tribute to the German National Holiday, even more so because one tower is in the former West, and the other in the former East ;-)

    Cheers, Stefan

  2. Bee, that church tower in Suurhusen looks (and literally) to deserve the title of "most lopsided" tower. The other one, in Bad Frankenhausen, is impressively tilted, but shouldn't be called the "World's Crookedest Tower". I am sure that "crooked" is supposed to mean non-straight, as opposed to tilted (angle away from vertical, or horizontal in some contexts.) This could be a matter of imperfect translation into English - what was the original German of this phrase. Did they say a form of gekippt; or rather am krummsten; am schiefsten? From what little I know anymore, the first would be better in this case.

    What amazes me is how an oak wood foundation in wet soil would last at all (or maybe rotted, leaving building to rest on stones.)

    BTW, considering the title of this blog, maybe someday another post about the weird properties and problems of radiative self-reaction?

  3. Hi Bee,

    I know it’s somewhat stereotypical yet one of the first things that come to mind about Germany and its people is that they have an innate sense to strive and take pride in doing things right, as in quality. Therefore, I find it somewhat hard to believe this dispute as to who should be recognized for having the most out of whack tower.

    Then again perhaps they have a point when it comes to the tourist trade that we in Toronto should take note of. That is as the building in Dubai has already before completion succeeded our own CN Toweras being once the tallest freestanding structure, perhaps we should push it over a few degrees as to be able to claim it to be the tallest leaning free standing structure:-)



  4. Hello Neil,
    that towers are "schief" in German.
    This word is used for things which
    are expected to be exactly vertical or
    horizontal (if not).

    What amazes me is how an oak wood foundation in wet soil would last at all (or maybe rotted, leaving building to rest on stones.)
    Your amazement is wrong :=)
    Founding on oakwood below water level
    was a common method up to 19th century.
    (eg the famous Rialto bridge in Venice
    rests on oakwood since 1591)
    The water excludes oxygen, thus preventing
    the oakwood to rot.
    It is common for old buildings that
    they are endangered if the ground water
    level is lowered.
    Problems with inclined towers etc
    arise typically when some clay layers
    are below. Clay releases water under
    pressure and shrinks. If such a clay
    layer is only under one half of such a tower,
    or the layer has a wedge shape, things like in Pisa happen.

  5. Hi George,

    That's interesting, thanks! Best,


  6. But bear in mind that we always have supersymmetry around to correct all forms of lopsidedness -- whether it's our lopsided things on Earth or our lopsided Universe in general.

  7. The authorities managing the church tower in Suurhusen, Germany, had applied in June to the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s most lopsided building title. The Guinness Book of Records acknowledged that this church tower is the winner. The officials had measured it leaning at a 5.19 degree angle compared to only 3.97 degree angle of Pisa.
    ( Leaning tower of Pisa loses Guinness title)


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