Leaning towers of Frisia battle for title of world's most crooked building

Forget Pisa's famous tower. The prized title of the "world's most leaning" building is being fought over by a handful of obscure German towns and villages, each with a teetering tower so askew that visitors are frequently warned not to climb them.

The world-renowned Italian structure does not even come close to the leaning red-brick church bell tower in the tiny northern German hamlet of Suurhusen. For that reason, the Guinness World Records reports the listed building with a pronounced list leans more than any other in the world.

Suurhusen, which lies north of the port of Emden, in East Frisia, applied for and won its "most leaning" status in 2007 after Frank Wessels, the pastor at the 13th-century church, wrote to Guinness World Records and staked his claim. The title has helped the village to attract some 10,000 tourists a year from all over the world.

Pastor Wessels's entire church is askew. He delivers sermons from a listing pulpit to a congregation surrounded by lopsided walls. But its 87ft steeple is what the tourists come for. It looks as if it has taken one drink too many and lurches away from the nave at an alarming angle of 5.19 degrees. The leaning tower of Pisa, by comparison, manages a paltry 3.99 degree tilt.

However Suurhusen now finds its claim challenged by other provincial German towns. If angle of tilt is the criterion, a crumbling medieval fortress tower in Dausenau in the western Rhineland-Palatinate region, is ahead of Suurhusen by 0.05 of a degree.

Guinness World Records has, however, so far rejected Dausenau's claims arguing that because the tower is ruined, it is ineligible. But several other churches seem to have even better claims to the title. Many are in the same East Frisian region as Suurhusen, where almost 70 per cent of such buildings do not stand completely upright.

Experts say this is caused by the region being low-lying and marshy. Many of the churches are leaning over because they were built on wooden supports which are now rotting. One East Frisian church tower in the village of Midlum, leans over at a record-topping angle of 6.74 degrees. The local church council leader has yet to lodge a claim for the official record. But as Midlum's tower is only 46ft high compared with Suurhusen's 87ft, its top leans a mere 63 inches off the perpendicular.

Suurhusen's status is more seriously challenged by yet another teetering church tower, in the eastern German spa town of Bad Frankenhausen. Its 174ft baroque tower began tipping towards its current alarming angle in the early 1900s. The tower's angle of lean may not be as great as its north German counterparts, but because of its height, it projects a staggering 14 feet and seven inches off the perpendicular.

Bad Frankenhausen's tower is surrounded by danger signs and tourists are cautioned against trying to scale it. Its rate of tilt, caused by water-filled, subterranean caves, is estimated at 0.08 inches every month. The town council had planned to demolish it this summer fearing that it posed too much of a risk to the public. However Matthias Strejc, the town's mayor intervened at the last minute and has come up with a plan to save the tower for posterity, and to claim the title with a €1.7m (£1.5m) rescue scheme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas