Es simply missing a Galileo Galilei. Then the history of Gau-Weinheim would have been quite different for centuries. But here, deep in Rheinhessen, unlike in Pisa, no case tests were undertaken and no case laws were discovered, as the famous polymath is said to have done in his native city of Pisa in the 16th century from the world-famous Leaning Tower there. Here in Gau-Weinheim there is just a tower. Everyone in the village knew that it was a bit “schepp”, as the Rheinhesse says instead of “skewed”.
But for many decades no one suspected that it was as crooked as it is, and on the “least” side even more crooked than the Tower of Pisa or any other tower in the world. “In all my 73 years here in town, I’ve always been joking about whether the tower will fall over soon,” says Hans-Bernhard Krämer, mayor of the community with barely 400 inhabitants around 30 kilometers south of Mainz.
Tower crooked, age unknown
It hasn’t fallen over yet, and even now that Erwin Gottschlich is pointing the way inside, it doesn’t look fragile at all. On the mezzanine floor, made of wooden slats in the tower, you can feel the inclination. The ground drops by a good 20 centimeters over the four meters from one side of the tower to the other. “Unfortunately, we don’t know why that is,” says Gottschlich.
A few years ago, he took on the tower and its past, being responsible for global control unit programming at Opel, GM and Stellantis until he retired. The local archive stored in Darmstadt was burned during the Second World War, and Gottschlich has been looking for documents for some time now. One of his last hopes is the chronicle of the diocese of Mainz, where somewhere there might be a mention of Gau-Weinheim and the tower right next to the church.
Even the age of the tower is unknown to this day. The parish tower, which is said to have served as a defense tower in the Middle Ages, was the corner tower of the military cemetery that formerly surrounded the church and was, as far as is certain, converted into a bell tower in 1749. In this capacity it served both denominations, while today it only houses the congregational bell, which can be heard at 11am, 1pm and 6pm.
No tilting despite inclination
But the facts are more important than the past: the tower is inclined differently on each of its four sides. A surveying office measured 5.38 degrees on the most inclined side when checking the statics of the tower, which was renovated in 1991 and stabilized with some concrete on the inside became. Gottschlich then came up with the idea of looking up in Wikipedia and other sources what the world record is through a contribution in the “Sending with the Mouse”.
A church tower in the East Frisian town of Suurhusen is currently listed as the most leaning tower in the world at 5.19 degrees. Pisa has just over 4 degrees, certainly also because massive work to support the tower in recent decades more dangerous inclination prevented. A fallen leaning tower would of course no longer be a leaning tower.
In Gau-Weinheim, meanwhile, there is no danger of the tower tipping over, even where Gottschlich was able to increase the inclination to 5.4277 degrees according to new measurements by a Mainz surveying office in mid-July. Thanks to crowdfunding, the money was also brought in to have this tendency certified by the record institute for Germany. In competition with the world-famous “Guinness Book of Records”, which charges significantly higher fees for the test, this publishes records.
The institute also accepted the tower as a tower. Because this is also a legitimate question: When is a tower a real tower? There are no clear criteria. After all, the parish tower in Gau-Weinheim is nowhere near as high as its relative in Pisa, which is a proud 55.8 meters. In Gau-Weinheim they don’t even know the exact height because it has simply never been measured. It is estimated to be around 15 meters high.
More leaning than the leaning tower
The deflection is correspondingly small, i.e. the point that Galileo used in Pisa for his experiments at a perpendicular distance of almost four meters from the tower wall. “But if that’s not a tower, then I don’t know what is. He wears a bell and even has a hood,” says Gottschlich unequivocally. “We know our tower isn’t as impressive as Pisa’s, but it’s more leaning.”
Gau-Weinheim would like to feel the new popularity in tourism. Gottschlich believes that gastronomy will develop in the town and that overnight guests could also make a stop. Mayor Krämer, a retired winegrower, hopes that the town, which is characterized by viticulture, will benefit from the sale of the grape juice.
However, he considers crooked wine bottles as souvenirs to be rather unlikely – too expensive to produce and sell. Skewness has its price in a world based on balanced straightness. The idea of creating a small Pisa in Rheinhessen therefore seems a bit odd, but Gau-Weinheim is the same. The certificate will be presented for the notch on September 11th. And then the record is documented.