Spires (Ger. Speier), the capital of the Bavarian Palatinate, stands on the left bank of the Rhine, 19 miles S. of Mannheim. The red sandstone Romanesque cathedral was begun by Conrad II. in 1030 and finished in 1061; it suffered from fire in the 12th, 13th, and 16th centuries, and in 1689 was stripped to the bare walls and even set fire to by the French, who also exhumed and scattered the bones of eight German emperors. Reconstructed in 1782, it was again desecrated by the French in 1794, but was once more rebuilt in 1797-1822. The interior walls are covered with more than thirty large frescoes; and statues of the eight emperors (1858) adorn the vestibule. The town itself was also demolished by the French in 1689, and having been rebuilt since then, has broad though irregular streets, with very few ancient buildings, except the gateway or clock-tower, dating from before 1246, and a few fragments of the imperial palace, in which several diets were held - one that of 1529, at which the Reformers first became known as Protestants. There is some industry in cloth, paper, tobacco, sugar, etc. Pop. 21,000. The Augusta Nemetum and Noviomagus of the Romans, but renamed Spira from the 7th c, Spires in the 13th became a free imperial city. Between 1801 and 1814 it was the capital of a dep. of France, and in 1815 it passed to Bavaria.