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Irish Round Towers

41 40 MInarets and lIghthouses looking out to see Tradition maintains that the first of Ravennas round bell towers, at San Apollinare in Classe, is built on the foundations of a Roman lighthouse. The campanile would certainly have been useful, fulfilling some functions of ancient lighthouses, as a look out post and an indicator of the harbour for incoming ships, moreover Caorle, further north on the Adriatic, also has a round campanile by its harbour which doubled as a sighting position for ships until a taller square campanile was built closer to the sea. Several other campanili also have the tradition that they stand on the foundations of Roman lighthouses. But why The explanation seems to hinge on Egypt. When the Moslem conquerors took Alexandria they followed an Islamic precept that places of prayer should be those of the most significant activities of the community, and therefore established a mosque and a round tower beside the beacon of the Pharos, the enormous lighthouse which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, only slightly shorter than the Great Pyramid, and the tallest building in the world until the Woolworth Tower, New Yorks first great skyscraper, was built. As the Moslems moved along the southern Mediterranean coast they built forts called ribats at the ports, and on each ribat was a tall round tower, a minaret. Just like the Pharos they were also sighting positions for ships, and got their name because the word minaret meant a lighthouse.
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