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Irish Round Towers

49 48 the leanIng toWer a swan song In an important sense the Irish clog tigh continued the lighthouse function of their Italian and Islamic predecessors. They were good viewing positions for monks watching for whoever might be approaching, and landmarks for anyone trying to find them. The monasteries were pilgrimage centres, so many would be looking for these towers, through what was then a largely untamed landscape, a rolling green sea of natural woodlands. Indeed all church towers continued to have this use for a long time. That, in fact, is the origin of the steeplechase a crosscountry horse race, from one church tower to the next. And so to the last and most famous round bell tower. In the 12th century Pisa was the greatest naval power of Italy. They drove the Muslims out of southern Italy, and built Pisas ecclesiastical complex, reviving the spirit of earlier times. It has a cathedral, an enormous baptistery, and of course the round campanile which leans so dramatically. It was sited beside the cathedral, and not far from the citys quays. It therefore could, symbolically at least, continue the dual purpose of San Apollinare in Classe, or Caorle, or indeed the Pharos of Alexandria. Ironically, the last Irish round towers were being built at much the same time. In the Leaning Towers uppermost arches the old bells still hang, but no one would dare ring them now.
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