Visit Nevyansk … if you feel that way inclined

Posted on 0, by Victor Repin

You’ve probably heard of Italy’s famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. But what about Russia’s Leaning Tower of Nevyansk?

The tower – unsurprisingly – stands (or rather, leans) in the town of Nevyansk in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast. Built in the 18th century, its construction was funded by Peter the Great’s associate and famous Russian manufacturer, Akinfy Demidov.

Nevyansk

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The tower stands 189 ft high, and its base is 31 ft square. The top part of the tower is currently 7 ft 3 in from the perpendicular. But apart from that, not a lot is actually known for sure about the tower, its purpose … even when it was built, exactly.

What Russian historians are pretty sure about is that it was constructed between 1721 and 1745. As for why, there are various hypotheses. Some say Demidov used it as a ‘bank safe’, while others believe it was either a watchtower, a belltower or a prison. According to some, it may even have been a laboratory for conducting chemical experiments and producing counterfeit money. Or maybe it was supposed to embody the might of the Demidov family and serve as an architectural symbol of their dynasty.

What we do know is that, during restoration works, archaeologists discovered that its first floor was used for conducting some sort of ‘secret work’ with the help of shackled serfs. Documents also suggest that the second floor may have been Demidov’s office, where he kept his archives and other papers.

The third floor housed some kind of laboratory, equipped with a furnace. A soot sample taken from the flue showed traces of silver and gold, but scientists say the story about Demidov minting coins is probably a myth.

Floors four to six contain stairwells only. The seventh and eight floors house a unique clock with bell music made by an English master, Richard Phelps, in 1730. Demidov is said to have bought the clock for 5000 roubles – a huge amount for that time (the Nevyansk Tower itself cost just 4207 roubles to construct). The clock has three dials, ten musical bells weighing about four tons, and one alarm bell. The ninth floor was probably used as an observation post.

So why does it lean? One legend says the tower was purposely inclined to face southwest towards Demidov’s birthplace in Tula. Another claims that Demidov and the architect went to the top of the tower once construction was complete. There, Demidov asked whether he could build anything better than the Nevyansk Tower. When the architect answered ‘yes’, Demidov ordered him thrown down from the top of the building. The next morning, the locals noticed that the tower had leaned forward, and water was trickling down the walls as if the tower were crying. But experts believe that drifting grounds were to blame for the tower’s inclination right from the beginning.

Whatever the truth, this is a striking building that used some very advanced building techniques, making it well worth a visit for architecture buffs. And the good news is that the Nevyansk Tower is open to the public, with guided tours provided by a local museum and tourist guides from Yekaterinburg. And it’s not the only sight in the area worth seeing – the domed Old Believers' church and monument to Peter I of Russia and Nikita Demidov are just a short walk away.

So if you’d like to see the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk for yourself, just give us a call and we’ll organise all your travel and accommodation for you!