Restorers straighten up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been returned to its former glory after an eight-year restoration project in which it was cleaned and partly straightened.
Restorers used chisels and laser technology to scrub grime from the 24,000 blocks of stone that make up the 183ft tower.
The monument has also had its famous list partly corrected after engineers managed to straighten it by 18 inches from the vertical, returning it to its 1838 position.
"The stones were in an appalling state, mainly due to air pollution, though tourists and pigeons played a part," said Anton Sutter, the Swiss-born leader of the €23m restoration effort.
The tower had also been badly damaged by sea salt.
"The columns (of the tower) are decorated with capitals: flowers, ghoulish faces, fantastical animals, but sea salt carried on the wind and rain water . . . have damaged many," said Mr Sutter.
"We've taken out the concrete used in past restorations and cleaned up the pigeon dirt, graffiti and handprints left by tourists."
The building of the bell tower began in 1173 but by the time the third level was finished, it was already tilting because of soft sand and clay beneath its foundations.
Despite the lean, work resumed and it was completed in the second half of the 14th Century.
The tower was closed to the public in 1990 when it was found to be nearly 15ft off the vertical.
"It was on the verge of collapse, but we managed to stop the tilt and secure it.
"It's now out of risk for at least the next 200 years," said Giuseppe Bentivoglio, from the Opera Primaziale organisation that preserves the tower. (© Daily Telegraph, London)