Astronomer's Spire

Astronomer's Spire

The Astronomer's Spire is the tallest of The Citadel's many towers, and it's wide here at the bottom. Like most of the campus, it's made of large blocks of sandy coloured stone. The floors above are thick oak boards, and the heavy beams supporting them are bare overhead.

The large circular room that makes up the ground floor is ringed with small arch-topped windows. Much of the space is crowded with wooden benches — students gather here for lectures and study before ascending to the observatory above. There's a lectern against the curving wall opposite the door, and alongside it a slant-topped stand to hold oversized books of diagrams with their pages facing the benches so that students may study the images as a group.

In the center of the room, forcing comers and goers to walk amid the students when classes are in session, is the steep and treacherous oaken spiral staircase leading up.

Spiral Staircase - Astronomer's Spire

The oaken stair is steep and treacherous, and narrow, but the railings are sturdy and firm. There are dips in the age-hardened wooden treads from countless feet. It's mostly dark, but each level does have a landing with at least one area open enough to reach the outer wall, allowing light from one of the tower's narrow windows.

The staircase spirals all the way up to the observatory at the tower's top, but one might get off at any of the many levels in between, allowing access to the many small rooms the spire houses.

Observatory - Astronomer's Spire

Four slim tall spikes of stone rim the edges of this tower top, corresponding to the cardinal directions. The tower top is not perfectly round, but a dodecagon with smaller spikes at each of its angles. Apart from them, there is no rail. A number of lines an vertices are engraved in the floor — if you understand their meaning it is easy to determine precisely what direction you are facing.

Several large far-eyes are kept up here, brass instruments on tripods that include marked arcs to allow the user to determine and record the angle. There is also an enormous brass sextant, with its pie-slice-shaped arc as tall as a man, up on a bronze stand high enough that the two observers required to work the instrument don't need to crouch.

The spiral stair that allows one to climb the tower comes out in the middle of the space. There's a domed roof over it, large enough to cover it and the tower-top's center, leaving space for the instruments to be moved under cover. Oilskin sheets can be drawn over the posts that hold the dome, to protect the equipment from harsh weather.

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