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Scaffolding removed from Leaning Tower of Pisa after 20 years

IANS  

Rome: The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been freed from a scaffolding that covered it for the past 20 years, officials said.

The 56-metre high world-famous monument is almost 50 cm straighter than it was, and is "safe for years to come", they said.

A team of restorers painstakingly cleaned the 7,000 square metres of marble that covers the tower, scraping away years of grime and graffiti and re-attaching pieces of marble that had fallen off.

"Despite the monument's surface area, we worked across it centimetre by centimetre," said Gisella Capponi, an architect who heads Italy's culture ministry's conservation and restoration institute.

Before a nearly two-decade-long international engineering project to give a facelift to the tower began in the 1990s, it was toppling an extra one millimetre further each year from its its 4.5-metre tilt.

The tower reopened to the public in 2001 despite ongoing work, and by 2008 was back to a 3.99 metre lean - the incline it had in the mid-19th century.

This should remain for the next 300 years, officials said.

The 27-million-euro project involved steel girdles, lead weights, and extensive digging that straightened the tower by almost 50 cm.

The tower was built between the 11th and 13th centuries and is located next to the Romanesque cathedral in the city's historic piazza dei Miracoli. It was completed in 1350.

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