He is to the Irish what the Eiffel Tower is to the French. The Spire is now one of those emblematic figures that symbolize an entire city, and by extension an entire country. If ever your feet take you to the side of the city of Dublin, on O’Connell Street, it will be impossible for you to miss this huge steel column pointing up to the sky!
The Spire was created in 1999: it is a 120-metre conical sculpture located on O’Connell Street . Le Spire actually replaces another column now destroyed: the Nelson Pillar. This first monument consisted of a granite column of almost 37 meters, overhung by a 4 meter statue representing Nelson, commemorating the battle of Trafalgar. It was designed by the architect also in charge of the GPO, Francis Johnson.
From the beginning, the Nelson Pillar was very unpopular. The local authorities were opposed to the project, but the Duke of Richmond, representative of the crown and head of the executive, went along with it. Several plans were made for his withdrawal, including that of Taoiseach Seán Lemass in 1960. It was even planned for a time to replace it with a statue of Patrick Pearse, St. Patrick, or even JFK.
Finally, on the night of March 8, 1966, a group of former IRA members placed an explosive charge that shattered the top of the column and sent the statue waltzing. Two days later, army engineers came to destroy what was left of the structure, which was considered dangerous. Ironically, it is this second phase of destruction that will do the most damage to the other buildings. After a few twists and turns, the head of the statue ended up in Dublin’s Civic Museum.
It was only in 1999 that the Speyer project was born, a sculpture that was to replace the exact place where the Nelson Column had been built and then destroyed…
The Spire is actually a contemporary sculpture, erected in 2003, in the middle of Dublin’s main street, on O’Connell Street. It is impossible to miss it, as it can be seen from several streets around, due to its gigantic height.
The Spire takes the form of a conical column, 120 meters high, and starts from a base of 3 meters in diameter. The cone narrows little by little until it becomes a point, reaching a diameter of 15 cm at its top. The point is illuminated each evening with a bluish light, and allows the Dubliners to find their way around the city centre, taking it as a landmark!
It consists of 8 hollow stainless steel tubes, nested one inside the other on a telescopic system. In other words, the sculpture uses modern technology! Its construction cost 4 million Euros, an astronomical sum, which the government willingly paid, considering this new monument as the new symbol of Dublin.