The Leaning Tower is a medieval defensive Tower which owes its name to its considerable tilt. A legend has it that the creation of the tower was connected with an offence of one of the Teutonic Knights from Toruń who, against the monastic rule, fell in love and dated a beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant. As penance for breaching the chastity vows, the knight was ordered to build a leaning tower as a symbol of his crooked ways and deviation from the strict monastic rules.
Today, it is said that those whose sins are graver that that of the Teutonic knight will never be able to keep their balance while clinging with their backs and legs to the wall of the tower. Those who are righteous, faithful and honest will not fall forward. This unique test of rectitude is the highlight of all tourists’ visits to the tower.
Legends aside, the Leaning Tower was actually raised in the 14th century as one of dozens similar defense towers in the city walls of medieval Toruń. Its tilt is most probably the result of the unstable, sandy subsoil. However, there were some who saw the architectural problem as God’s punishment for allegedly blasphemous discovery of Copernicus. The news of the tower reached Rome and was used a serious argument for placing the astronomer’s work on the index of forbidden books. Initially, the tower had only three external walls so as to enable the defenders to hoist to its top floor projectiles and scalding-hot liquids used to repel the siege. With the development of artillery, the defensive role of the tower was diminished, and in the 18th century it served as a prison. One of the inmates managed to escape through an opening in the medieval toilet adjacent to the outside wall of the tower. The Leaning Tower has also served as residential quarters, an office and a restaurant.
The Tower is on both sides attached to medieval defensive walls which have a recreated section of a wooden gallery which was used by the defenders to move along the length of the walls and fight the enemy. There used to be yet another, external ring of defensive walls with a moat, which protected the approach to the town by land. The entrance to Toruń was guarded by defense gate-towers with mighty barbicans. Most of these fortifications were pulled down at the end of the 19th century, however, a lot of sections of the medieval defense system still exist e.g. the long stretch of medieval walls along the Vistula embankment and a few defense towers in Podmurna street and Strumykowa street where the border between the Old Town and the New Town of Toruń used to run.