tapering structure on top of a building

A spire is a tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building, particularly a church tower. Etymologically, the word comes from the Old English word spir, meaning a sprout, shoot, or stalk of grass.[1]

The spires of Uppsala cathedral in Sweden
The Gothic spire of Ulm Cathedral

Symbolically, spires have two effects. One is to show strength and power. A spire, with its spear point, gives the impression of strength. The other is to reach up toward the skies as a religious gesture.[2] This is one reason for its association with religious buildings, and a similar reason has been given for the large pyramids in Egypt and early American civilisations. However, the tallest spires today are secular places of business or hotels, such as The Shard.

As an architectural ornament, spires are most often found on Christian churches.


  1. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  2. Robert Odell Bork 2003. Great spires: skyscrapers of the New Jerusalem, 2003.
shoots of grass
Comparison of pyramids