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Steeply pointed termination to a tower or roof. In Gothic architecture, the spire is a spectacular visual culmination of the building as well as a symbol of heavenly aspiration. The church spire originated in the 12th century as a simple, four-sided pyramidal roof capping a tower. Methods used to integrate an octagonal spire with a square tower below include broaches (sloping triangular sections of masonry added to the bottom of the four spire faces not coinciding with the tower sides), gabled dormers added to spire faces, and steep pinnacles (vertical ornaments of pyramidal or conical shape) added to tower corners. During the Decorated period (14th century) in England, a slender needle spire set in from the edge of the tower was popular; corner pinnacles and a low parapet around the tower's edge became customary. In the 20th century, architects tended to limit spires to rather elementary geometric shapes.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on spire, visit Britannica.com.