Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Nelson’s Pillar stood staunchly in the middle of O’Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland. It had been erected in honor of a British admiral, Horatio Nelson, who in 1805 defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. A big hero. So there were big statues of him in the most important places, and it was fair, fitting with the cadence of O'Connell Street from the early 19th century until the middle of the 20th. The statue was built by a Corkman with local materials.
This pillar was an important feature of the landscape of Dublin, cohesive with the architectural style of the surrounding buildings. Buildings that are National Treasures drenched in---history. Nelson's Pillar afforded citizens and visitors who climbed to the top a bird's-eye view of the city.
The Irish Free State that rules Ireland since the Easter Rising of the 1920s left Nelson's Pillar as it was, citing cost as a reason not to remove it when there was claimed affront to its presence in Ireland, a symbol of past indignities.
On the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising on March 8, 1966, Nelson’s Pillar was destroyed in an explosion that is blamed on or claimed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In 1998, the Dublin Corporation set aside 4 million Irish punts for a new statue to celebrate the millennium on the site of Lord Nelson's Pillar. The Royal Institute of Architects joined the Corporation in finding "a symbol for Dublin for the 21st century."
When the design for the "Spire of Dublin" was selected, and the site was being excavated to remove the remains of Nelson’s Pillar, workers found a time capsule buried under the pillar. The capsule was opened later under laboratory conditions and contained artifacts of Lord Nelson's time. Those who had placed the container there had not expected it to be found for 1,000 years.
The new Spire of Dublin is a very long, thin needle into the sky. It's as modern as tomorrow's news. Even as it was being built, the Spire gathered nicknames: the "Stiletto in the Ghetto,” "The Spike,” and others as Dublin as they get. The christening of the Spire helped to bring foot traffic back to an area of Dublin that had lost some of its pride after 1966. O'Connell Street itself was altered and lost face. Before that time, it had been a main thoroughfare busy with double-decker buses and genteel Dubliners, and O'Connell and Nelson giving each other the eye across the street.
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