Leaning Tower of Nevyansk

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The center of Nevyansk (viewer's left to viewer's right): Old Believers' church (domed), the Leaning Tower (white spire), and the monument to Peter I of Russia and Nikita Demidov (cast metal figures)

The Leaning Tower of Nevyansk (Russian: Невья́нская ба́шня) is a tower in the town of Nevyansk in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, built in the 18th century. Its construction was funded by Peter the Great's associate Akinfiy Demidov, a famous Russian manufacturer and son of industrialist Nikita Demidov.

The height of the tower is 57.5 metres (189 ft)[1] from the ground and the base is 9.5 square metres (102 sq ft). The deviation of the top part of the tower from vertical is about 3 degrees. The exact date of construction is unknown, but Russian historians believe that it was built between 1721 and 1745[citation needed]. There is no information about the architect of this edifice.

Technical parameters of the tower[edit]

  • The base is a square with sides of 9.5 metres.
  • Deviation of the tower from the vertical is about 1.85 metres.
  • Secular sediment is 0.9 millimetres per year.
  • The height is 57.5 metres.
  • The thickness of the walls is 2 metres at the base, 32 centimetres at the top level.
  • The weathercock weighs 25 kilograms and is 178 centimetres long.
  • The diameter of the ball-lightning rod is 30 centimetres; the length of the spikes-rays is 40 centimetres.
  • The musical chime has 10 copper bells and 1 bronze bell weighing more than a ton.[2]

The purpose of the tower[edit]

Historians still debate the exact purpose of the Nevyansk Tower. It has been suggested that Demidov used it as a "bank safe", while others believe it may have been a watchtower, a belltower, a prison,[1] or even a laboratory for conducting chemical experiments and producing counterfeit money. Some historians think that the tower was meant to embody the might of the Demidov family and serve as an architectural symbol of their dynasty.

The bell-playing musical clockwork produced by Richard Phelps

During restoration work, archaeologists were able to determine the purpose of some of the rooms. The first floor of the tower was used for conducting secret work with the help of shackled serfs. According to documents that were discovered, the second floor may have been Demidov’s office, where he kept his archives and other papers. The third floor housed a laboratory, equipped with a furnace. A soot sample taken from the flue showed traces of silver and gold in it, which some consider might relate to a theory that's refuted by scientists, that the Demidov's may have been conducting coin minting activity there. However, it is most likely that the tower was used for smelting the top layers of ore-bearing deposits, which often contain silver or gold. Floors four to six have stairwells only. The seventh and the eight floors house a clock that plays music on a carillon made by English master Richard Phelps in 1730. It is said that the clock was purchased by Demidov for 5,000 rubles, a considerable amount for the time. For comparison, the construction of the Nevyansk Tower itself, costed 4,207 rubles. The clock has three dials, ten music bells weighing about four tons, and one alarm bell. The ninth floor was probably used as an observation post.

The purpose of one particular room in the tower is still debated. Archaeologists dubbed it the "acoustic room." It measures 20 square metres (220 sq ft) and is located between the fourth and the fifth floors. A person standing in one corner of this room can whisper words to another person in the opposite corner and they will be readily audible. Researchers do not know whether the room was built this way on purpose or not. It could be that Demidov used this acoustic room for gathering intelligence on his high-ranking guests.

The purpose of inclination[edit]

A view of the tower from the ground

The reason of the tower's inclination is surrounded by legends. One of them involves the architect commissioned with its construction. More than an accident, the tower was purposely inclined to face southwest in the direction of Demidov’s birthplace[1] in Tula. Supposedly, this is how Demidov wanted to demonstrate his affection for his former home. Another legend claims, that once the construction the Tower edifice had been completed, Akinfiy Demidov and the architect went on top of the tower where Demidov asked him whether he could build anything better than the Nevyansk Tower. The architect answered "yes," and Demidov ordered him thrown from the top of the building (a similar legend is attached to the construction of the Prague Astronomical Clock). The next morning the locals supposedly noticed that the tower had leaned forward a bit and water had started trickling down the walls as if the tower were "crying". One can see water constantly dripping down the southwest wall of the tower to this day (albeit as a result of a natural phenomenon).

The restorers say that there is no evidence to even assume that the Nevyansk Tower was purposely built inclined.[1] The current surveying data shows that the defect had to be obvious during the construction. It appears that drifting grounds were to blame for the inclination of the tower from the very beginning. Scientists believe that an uneven subsidence took place when the tower had already been partially built. Most likely, the construction workers stopped building the tower on seeing the defect, but later on they decided to go on with their work. This is supported by the color of mortar between the bricks, the composition of which changed as the architects worked their way up. It is also visible how the workers started using specially trimmed bricks, with which they tried to even out the tower.[1] It appears that the architects finally succeeded in straightening it out. Current measurements indicate that there is a 3-degree deviation of the base part from the axis, the middle part is already straightened, and the inclination of the tower equals only one degree. The top part of the tower is standing vertically.

Construction techniques[edit]

A corner of the acoustic room, with some rebars of the tower seen

Constructed of fired clay bricks, that incorporated lime and egg white,[2] the tower's tented roof was the first cast iron cupola in the world, with a metal carcass and metal outer shell.[citation needed] The second time this technique was applied, around 100 years later, was during the reconstruction of the Mainz Cathedral in Germany in 1826, and the third time it was used in the dome of Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, built in the 1840s. The very top of the tower is crowned with a metallic lightning rod in the shape of a gilded sphere with spikes. These were built somewhere between 1721 and 1745 and have recently been interpreted as lightning rods (existing 28 years before Benjamin Franklin's scientific explanation of such devices). Also, the archaeologists found that in order to fasten the structural parts of the tower, the workers used the principle of reinforced concrete for the first time in the world,[citation needed] or some 130 years before its first recorded use by a Parisian gardener in 1860. The Nevyansk Tower is pierced with deeply grounded metal bars (rebars).[citation needed] The metal parts used during the construction do not have a slightest trace of corrosion[citation needed]. Scientists say that the iron composition of these parts is 99.6%. Although commonplace today, the process of manufacture of such high-grade material in the 18th century still remains a mystery.

Following the restoration, the Nevyansk Tower was opened to the public. Guided tours are provided by a local museum and tourist guides from Yekaterinburg.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "10 Leaning Towers of the World". The Weather Channel. August 13, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Nevyanskaya Tower". culture, russia. Retrieved 18 December 2017.

Sources[edit]

  • Most of the article was translated from the original Russian text in the Itogi Weekly magazine [1]
  • Additional material was translated from the Russian text at http://7.ural.ru
  • Additional information and photos of Nevyansk tower [2]

Coordinates: 57°29′22″N 60°13′15″E / 57.48944°N 60.22083°E / 57.48944; 60.22083