TOLEDO, Spain – Architects are undertaking a painstaking restoration of the cathedral tower in the historic Spanish city of Toledo in a bid to give the centuries-old structure a new lease of life.
The dominating tower dates back over 500 years and specialists hope to make it safe for at least another hundred years.
But giving a facelift to a tower standing over 50 meters high, the equivalent to some 18 stories, is no easy feat.
Conservation architect Jaime Castañon said some parts of the structure have not been touched for over half a millennium.
With the project set to conclude by June, most of the main challenges have already been overcome, including the revision of the lime mortar holding the tower’s bricks together, the architect said.
“We’ve already done 50 percent of the work, and the remaining 50 percent of the tower will be quicker,” he told EFE in an interview on the scaffolding high up the tower overlooking the former Spanish capital.
The top of the tower underwent restoration work in the 1980s.
Hundreds of years of rainfall and water seepage had eroded the mortar between the bricks of the tower, causing some to come loose.
“It’s like the dentures of an old person in which all the teeth are loose because they don’t have a fixing element,” Castañon said.
Once the bricks are cleaned, workers replace any missing grout and repair eroded chunks of stone.
Some of the restoration work on the bricks was hampered when conservationists noticed the iron reinforcement rods were deteriorated and in need of replacement.
Attention has also been given to the cornices on the tower, which as well as providing a decorative flare to the facade, help drain the waters from the structure.
The tower’s drainage system had to be cleared of pigeon droppings and vegetation.
A dozen people, including expert stone masons and blacksmiths, have been working on the tower since the renovation began in August 2019 in a project valued at around 800,000 euros.
Antonio Sanchez-Barriga, a restorer, said the team had chosen a specific kind of grout taken to keep the tower uniform and close to the original design.
“You can’t use the same stone, but you can match some of the areas,” he said.
Toledo’s cathedral is an example of High Gothic architecture and was completed in 1493, over two hundred years after construction began on the site of a old mosque.