Illustrated Architecture Dictionary


An octagonal spire that sits directly on to a square tower.

Any slender pointed construction surmounting a building; generally a narrow octagonal pyramid set above a square tower. 

The spire originated in the 12th century as a simple, four-sided pyramidal roof, generally abrupt and stunted, capping a church tower. Its history is a development toward slimmer, higher forms and a more organic relationship with the tower below.

: a tall ornamental structure; a tower, composed of a series of stories, diminishing in size, and topped by a small pyramid, spire or cupola.

Tower: a building characterized by its relatively great height


Broached spire: An octagonal spire surmounting a square tower, the transition between being made by broaches.  

Earliest type of spire, where the tower rises direct into the spire without parapet or pinnacles.

Broach: A half pyramid above the corners of a square tower to provide a transition to an octagonal spire; a sloping triangular section of masonry. 

The broach is the sloping triangular piece of masonry connecting the angle of the square tower with the adjacent face of the octagonal spire.

Popular for a hundred or so years, their purpose is to enable the tapered octagon of the spire to fit onto the square top of the tower.

The junction, of an octagonal spire and a square tower involved a distinct architectural problem. A thirteenth century technical innovation in England, broaches are the triangular shapes clasping the spire above the top corners of the tower.

Broach Spire, Drawn by Banister Fletcher

Parapet spires:    "Broach spires were superseded by parapet spires, which rose from the tower but from within the parapet. This made repairs much easier since a ladder could be placed on top of the tower rather than on the ground. The junction of tower and parapet was masked by ornamental carving and the parapet was decorated with pinnacles. The spires have crockets along their ridge which act as steps for the steeplejacks. Often they increase in size as they go up the spire." - Edward Wyatt, Spires and Buttresses

Needle spires, delicately thin in their taper, are usually made of lead.

Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
.| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index...| .. E-Mail ...| ..

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.