(spira), an acutely pointed termination given to towers and turrets, forming the roof, and usually carried up to a great height. It is doubtful whether any very decided approach towards a spire was made till a considerable time after the introduction of the Norman style at this period spires were sometimes adopted both on turrets and towers, and were generally made to correspond with them in their plan. Thus the circular turrets at the east end of the Church of St. Peter, at Oxford, terminate in small circular spires; an octagonal turret at the west end of Rochester Cathedral has an octagonal spire; and the square towers of the churches of Than and St. Contet, and several others near Caen, in Normandy, are surmounted with pyramids or square spires. They were at first of very low proportions compared with later structures, and in truth were little more than pyramidal roofs. The whole of the existing specimens of this date are of stone, and rise from the outer surface of the walls, so as to have no parapet or gutter round the base. These pyramids become gradually more elongated as they are later in date, and clearly led the way to the spire.
As the Early English style arose, considerably greater elevation was given to spires, although they were still very frequently less acute than they afterwards became, as at Ryhall, Rutland; Barnack and Ringstead Northamptonshire; and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. With the exception of a few rare examples, spires at this period were always octagonal; and when placed on square towers, the angles of the tower not covered by the base of the spire were occupied by pinnacles or by masses of masonry made to slope back against the spire. At the bottom of each of the four cardinal sides was usually a large opening with the jambs built perpendicularly, so that the head stood out from the spire and was usually finished with a steep pediment. Above these, at some considerable distance, smaller openings of a similar kind were generally introduced on the alternate sides; these openings are called spire lights. The top of the spire terminated with a finial and a cross or vane. Spires were still usually made to rise from the exterior of the tower walls without a parapet, a mode of construction which is distinguished in some districts by the term broach, the name of spire being confined to such structures as have gutters and parapets round their bases. Fine examples of spires of this date exist in Normandy, and at Bampton and Witney, Oxfordshire, and various other places.
During the prevalence of the Decorated style spires were almost always very acute; they generally had parapets and gutters round them, though the broach spires are by no means uncommon at this date, as at Stamford and Crick, Northamptonshire. Decorated spires did not differ materially from Early English spires, except in the character of the details and the amount of enrichments, which now began to be introduced in profusion. Crockets were often carved on the angles, as at Caythorpe, and small bands of paneling or other ornaments formed round them at different heights; the openings also were more enriched, and the pinnacles on the angles of the tower were enlarged, and were not unfrequently connected with the spire by small flying buttresses. Fine examples of this style are the spires of Salisbury Cathedral and of St. Mary's, Oxford.
In the Perpendicular style the same general., arrangement was continued, although the character of the details and enrichments was altered in common with those of the other features of Gothic architecture. At this period broach spires appear to have been abandoned — at least, no example of one of this date can be referred to. The foregoing observations refer to spires of stone, but they were often also made of timber and covered either with lead or shingles, the greater part of these were broaches, but they were sometimes surrounded by a parapet at the base. Many specimens of timber spires covered with shingles are to be met with in the counties of Surrey, Sussex, Kent, and Essex, and in some other places.
Small spires of open work, of timber, are sometimes placed at the east end of the naves of large foreign churches. In some of these the Lady bell (or Sanctus bell) is placed. The conjunction of a tower and spire forms a steeple. The following is the measurement of celebrated steeples above the ground: Old St. Paul's, 527 ft.; Salisbury, 404 ft.; St. Michael's, Coventry, 320 ft.; Norwich, 309 ft.; Louth, 294 ft.; Chichester, 271 ft.; Strasburg, 500 ft.; Vienna, 441 ft.; Antwerp, 406 ft.; Freiberg, 385 ft.; Chartres, 353 ft.; St. Patrick's, Dublin, 223 ft.; Glasgow, 225 ft. The spire of Amiens, called the golden steeple, from its gilded crockets, is 422 ft.; of Cologne, 510 ft.; the highest pinnacle of Milan, 355 ft.; the dome of St. Peter's, 434 ft.; Florence, 387 ft.; and Segovia, 330 ft. See Parker, Gloss. of Architecture, s.v.; Lee, Gloss. of Liturg. Terms; Walcott, Sacred Archceol. s.v.