Leaning Tower of Zaragoza

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The Leaning Tower of Zaragoza. Photo by J. Laurent (1816–1886)
The Leaning Tower of Zaragoza in an engraving of the time

The Leaning Tower of Zaragoza or Torre Nueva, was the most famous Mudéjar tower of the Spanish city of Zaragoza. It was built in the present Plaza de San Felipe, being the first large building built in the city during the 16th century, from 1504 to 1512. The Council ordered a civil tower to house the public clock – built by Jaime Ferrer – and bells that regulated the life of the city. The bells were placed in 1508. The tower was made of brick in Mudéjar style by Christian masters (Gabriel Gombao and Antón Sariñena) and Mudéjars (Juce Galí, Ismael Allabar and master Monferriz). It was demolished starting in 1892 by decision of the Council of Zaragoza.

Description of the monument[edit]

Zaragoza, the Leaning Tower, 1865–1867. Photo by Jose Martinez Sanchez, associated with J. Laurent.

Of four heights, the first was a star of 16 points and the following were octagonal with corner buttresses, characteristic of these towers in the 16th century and role model for other towers such as Santa María de Calatayud.

The shot was added in the 18th century (in 1749), being an attractive triple spire, with slate roofs, removed from 1878.

A great decoration encouraged the building made of geometric figures and pottery, also opened bays with pointed arches.

The tower was leaning since shortly after its construction, possibly due to the short time that was used to make the base and the first body: the south side of the tower hatched faster than the north, resulting in a difference in tensions of both sides that inclined the tower. It attempted to remedy reinforcing the foundation, but the slope remained. Its inclination or deviation from vertical was nearly three meters.

From the 16th century, the tower has become a symbol of the city.

During the Sieges (1808–1809), the tower was used to monitor the movements of the French troops, in addition to the notice in case of danger.

The American writer, Alexander Slidell MacKenzie visited the tower in 1834 and ascended to the top. He described it in the book 'Spain Revisited' thus: "The tower is of immense height and very singular in construction; it has an inclination, very perceptible to the eye and which had its origins rather perhaps in the unskilfulness of the times in which it was erected, than from design or a subsequent yielding of the soil. The ascent to the top is very gradual and is said to be like that inside the Giralda and may be made by a horse. The tower is made entirely of brick and the winding arch seen above you as you ascend, as well as the arches of the windows, are not formed in the ordinary way, and by the assistance of a wooden frame, but by making the bricks, which lie horizontally throughout, project over each other until they meet and oppose each other at the top. The appearance of the arch is insecure; but time has sanctioned its strength since it has endured so many centuries. Some difficulty occurs in accounting for the origin of such a huge pile which does not stand near any church or convent but is quite isolated in the centre of a square. An old man, whom I asked about it, told me that it was put up to enable the labourers to know the time in the fields about Zaragoza; and in fact, the sound of the huge bell, that tolls the hours, may be heard at an immense distance, if any idea can be formed from the deafening wffect which it produced upon my ears when nigh. "

It was considered the most famous Spanish leaning tower. In the 19th century was very often reproduced by engravers and photographers. Among the preserved photographic views highlights by Charles Clifford, in October 1860, or the different footages by J. Laurent, between 1863 and 1877. But it also was immortalized by such local photographers as Júdez or Coyne.

Demolition of the tower[edit]

Plaza de San Felipe, where the leaning tower was located. The sculpture of a seated boy looks up to the place where the tower was raised, indicated by a stone milestone.

In 1892 the council decided to demolish the tower, justifying the decision by the inclination and the expected collapse of the work. The decision was opposed by many intellectuals and part of the population, but efforts to save it were in vain.

Among the defenders of the tower highlighted the Gascón de Gotor brothers, who published numerous articles denouncing the "turricidio" ("towercide") of the most beautiful Mudéjar tower, calling also as the greatest artistic crime committed in Spain.

The demolition lasted a year, starting in the summer of 1892 with the installation of some scaffolding. The bricks of the tower were sold for foundations of new houses in the city, thus showing that these were perfectly sound, and that the tower was thrown arbitrarily. In the summer of 1893, definitely, Zaragoza was left without its Leaning Tower.

During the 1990s, these built the first memorial in the place that had been the tower. Today there is just a mark on the pavement of the perimeter of the tower and a sculpture of a boy who sees it as if it existed, sitting on the floor.

In one of the shops in the plaza is a small museum space dedicated to the tower, with photographs and pieces of it.


  • Gómez Urdáñez, María del Carmen (2003). The Torre Nueva of Zaragoza and documentation of the 16th century: history and historiography. Review of the Department of Art History at the University of Zaragoza, ISSN 0213-1498, Nº 18, 2003, pags. 341–374 (Ref.)
  • Dolader Serrano, Alberto (1989). The Torre Nueva of Zaragoza. Zaragoza, City Council of Zaragoza. ISBN 84-86807-06-9
  • Mackenzie, Alexander Slidell (1834) 'Spain Revisited'. Harper & Bros.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°39′18″N 0°52′55″W / 41.65490°N 0.88207°W / 41.65490; -0.88207