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Lighting up the Liberties

Located on the historically broad part of James’ Street stands a revamped 18th century church that is now home to Pearse Lyons Distillery. While the building and its onsite offices are spectacle enough, it is the church’s steeple that is truly a sight to see. 

The original church spire had been damaged by a lightning strike in the 1940s and was left capped. When the site was purchased by the Lyons family in 2013, the steeple was carefully restored along with the church itself. It was created by Deirdre Lyons, wife of the late Pearse, who felt that it was “important to reinstate” the “significant” feature. 

“The Liberty Lantern” was initially to be made out of copper, but this was swiftly changed to glass that is heat-strengthened and accompanied by layer of solar control film in the middle. This film creates the blue-grey tint on the glass and also reduces the solar gain within the spire. 

The finished design incorporates three (of the ten!) tonnes of glass and 8 inches by 1 inch stainless steel rafters. It is hand welded at all intersections. Mrs. Lyons describes the bond between the two elements as “state-of-the-art”, with no bolts or other mechanical fixings holding it all together. “This provides a beautiful frameless and seamless look to the spire,” she said.

The Liberty Lantern looms over the busy roads of the Liberties below and brings a different and interesting element to the area’s skyline. It adds a modern twist to the historic street, which is also host to the Obelisk Fountain and St. James’ Church.

The Liberty Lantern is a modern twist on a historic street. Photo by Eibhin Kavanagh.

 General manager of the distillery, Tracey Flinter, admits that this was an intentional choice. “The idea was that we would install a glass light or a glass element spire that could be lit from inside that would show rejuvenation and renovation in this area of Dublin.” Mrs. Lyons agreed, saying that it “reflects – and indeed illuminates – the merging of our past and present”. 
At night, the steeple is usually lit in a teal colour, to match the company’s brand, but is often changed to mark special occasions. This year might see the debut of a new celebratory change of colour. Mrs. Lyons said, “It glows red on Christmas, green on St. Patrick’s Day, and perhaps we’ll use orange on Halloween!”

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