List of obelisks in Rome

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Re-erection of the Vatican Obelisk by the Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana in 1586 1586 Rome obelisk erection.jpg
Re-erection of the Vatican Obelisk by the Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana in 1586

The city of Rome harbours the most obelisks in the world. There are eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome, together with a number of more modern obelisks; there was also until 2005 an ancient Ethiopian obelisk in Rome.

Contents

The Romans used special heavy cargo carriers called obelisk ships to transport the monuments down the Nile to Alexandria and from there across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome. On site, large Roman cranes were employed to erect the monoliths.

Ancient Egyptian obelisks

At least eight obelisks created in antiquity by the Egyptians were taken from Egypt after the Roman conquest and brought to Rome.

ImageHeight
(with base)
NameBuilderLocationNotes
Obelisk-Lateran.jpg
32.18 m
(45.70 m)
Lateranense Tuthmosis III / Tuthmosis IV Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano

41°53′12.6″N12°30′17.2″E / 41.886833°N 12.504778°E / 41.886833; 12.504778 (Lateranense)
Tallest obelisk in Rome, and the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world, originally weighing around 455  tons. [1] From the temple of Amun in Karnak, map and brought to Alexandria with another obelisk by Constantius II, and brought on its own from there to Rome in 357 to decorate the spina of the Circus Maximus. map Found in three pieces in 1587, restored approximately 4 m shorter by Pope Sixtus V, and erected near the Lateran Palace and basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in 1588 in the place of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which was moved to the Capitoline Hill. Current version weighs around 330 tons. [2]
Vatican Piazza San Pietro Obelisk slim.jpg
25.5 m
(41 m) [A 1]
VaticanoUnknown St. Peter's Square

41°54′8.1″N12°27′26.1″E / 41.902250°N 12.457250°E / 41.902250; 12.457250 (Vaticano)
Old St. Peter's Basilica with the obelisk at the left in its original place. Basilica di San Pietro 1450.jpg
Old St. Peter's Basilica with the obelisk at the left in its original place.
Originally raised in the Forum Iulium in Alexandria map by the prefect Cornelius Gallus on Augustus' orders around 30–28 BC. No hieroglyphs. Brought to Rome by Caligula in 40 for the spina of the Vatican Circus. map Relocated by Pope Sixtus V in 1586 using a method devised by Domenico Fontana; the first monumental obelisk raised in the modern period, it is the only obelisk in Rome that has not toppled since Roman times. During the Middle Ages, the gilt ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. [3] [4] Fontana later removed the ancient metal ball, now in a Rome museum, that stood atop the obelisk and found only dust. Pedro Tafur in his Andanças [4] [5] (circa 1440) mentions that many passed between the ground and the "tower" base "thinking it a saintly thing".
Obelisk-popolo.jpg
24 m
(36.50 m)
Flaminio Seti I / Ramses II Piazza del Popolo

41°54′38.6″N12°28′34.8″E / 41.910722°N 12.476333°E / 41.910722; 12.476333 (Flaminio)
Originally from Heliopolis. map Brought to Rome by Augustus in 10 BC with the Solare obelisk and erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus. map Found with the Lateranense obelisk in 1587 in two pieces and erected by Pope Sixtus V in 1589. Sculptures with lion fountains were added to the base in 1818. Weighs around 235 tons. [2]
SolareObelisk cropped.jpg
21.79 m
(33.97 m)
Solare Psammetichus II Piazza di Montecitorio

41°54′2.5″N12°28′43.2″E / 41.900694°N 12.478667°E / 41.900694; 12.478667 (Solare)
Originally from Heliopolis. map Brought to Rome by Augustus in 10 BC with the Flaminio obelisk to form the gnomon of the Solarium Augusti in the Campus Martius . map Found in the 16th century but reburied. Rediscovered and erected by Pope Pius VI in front of the Palazzo Montecitorio in 1792.
Obelisk in piazza della rotonda rome arp.jpg
6.34 m
(14.52 m)
Macuteo Ramses II Piazza della Rotonda

41°53′57.6″N12°28′36.3″E / 41.899333°N 12.476750°E / 41.899333; 12.476750 (Macuteo)
Originally one of a pair at the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis, the other being the now much shorter Matteiano. Moved to the Temple of Isis near Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Found in 1373 near San Macuto and erected in Piazza Macuta. Moved to the front of the Pantheon by Pope Clement XI in 1711 over a fountain by Filippo Barigioni.
Roma Elephant Obelisk 2007-05-19 13-51-58 BW.jpg
5.47 m
(12.69 m)
Minerveo Apries Piazza della Minerva

41°53′52.7″N12°28′39.2″E / 41.897972°N 12.477556°E / 41.897972; 12.477556 (Minerveo)
Originally one of a pair from Sais. Brought to Rome by Diocletian for the nearby Temple of Isis. Found in 1655 and erected in 1667 by Pope Alexander VII on an Elephant base by Bernini, behind the Pantheon in Piazza della Minerva. The other of the pair is in Urbino.

This is the smallest obelisk in Rome, with a height of 5.47 meters. [6]

Dogali-obelisk.jpg
?
(6.34 m)
Dogali Ramses II Baths of Diocletian

41°54′7.8″N12°29′50.9″E / 41.902167°N 12.497472°E / 41.902167; 12.497472 (Dogali)
Originally one of a pair from Heliopolis, the other now in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Moved to the Temple of Isis in Rome. Found in 1883 by Rodolfo Lanciani near Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Now commemorates the Battle of Dogali, originally in front of Near Termini Station and moved to its present site in 1924.
Villa Celimontana Obelisk.JPG
2.68 m
(12.23 m)
Matteiano Ramses II Villa Celimontana

41°53′0.2″N12°29′43.2″E / 41.883389°N 12.495333°E / 41.883389; 12.495333 (Matteiano)
Originally one of a pair at the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis, the other being the Macuteo which retains much more of its original height. Moved to the Temple of Isis near Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Found in the 14th century and erected east of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline. Moved to Villa Celimontana after Michelangelo redesigned the square in the late 16th century. Lost again; fragments rediscovered and re-erected in 1820. Smallest obelisk in Rome.

Ancient Roman obelisks

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At least five obelisks were manufactured in Egypt in the Roman period at the request of the wealthy Romans, or made in Rome as copies of ancient Egyptian originals.

ImageHeight
(with base)
NameLocationNotes
Vierstroemebrunnen Piazza Navona Rom.jpg
16.53 m
(30+ m)
Agonalis

(Pamphilius)

Piazza Navona

41°53′56.3″N12°28′23.1″E / 41.898972°N 12.473083°E / 41.898972; 12.473083 (Agonalis)
A copy commissioned by Domitian and erected at the Temple of Serapis. Moved to the Circus of Maxentius by Maxentius. The Earl of Arundel paid a deposit and attempted to ship the four pieces to London in the late 1630s but Urban VIII disallowed its export. [7]

Erected on top of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini in 1651.

RomaObeliscoQuirinale.JPG
14.63 m
(28.94 m)
Quirinale Piazza del Quirinale

41°53′56.7″N12°29′11.9″E / 41.899083°N 12.486639°E / 41.899083; 12.486639 (Quirinale)
Originally erected on the eastern flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus, paired with the Esquiline obelisk. Found in 1527. Erected by Pope Pius VI in 1786 on the Quirinal Hill next to statues of the Dioscuri (called the 'Horse Tamers') from the Baths of Constantine.
Maggiore-obelisk.jpg
14.75 m
(25.53 m)
Esquiline Piazza dell'Esquilino

41°53′53.4″N12°29′51″E / 41.898167°N 12.49750°E / 41.898167; 12.49750 (Esquiline)
Originally erected on the western flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus, paired with the Quirinale obelisk. Found in 1527 and erected in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V behind Santa Maria Maggiore.
RomaObeliscoSallustiano.JPG
13.91 m
(30.45 m)
Sallustiano Trinità dei Monti

41°54′22.1″N12°28′59.6″E / 41.906139°N 12.483222°E / 41.906139; 12.483222 (Sallustiano)
Above the Spanish Steps. An Aurelian copy, although smaller, of the Flaminio obelisk of Ramses II in the Piazza del Popolo, for the Gardens of Sallust. Found by the Ludovisi and moved to the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano in 1734, but kept horizontal. Erected in 1789 by Pope Pius VI.
Antinous obelisk Rome.jpg
9.24 m
(17.26 m)
Pinciano Pincian Hill

41°54′38.9″N12°28′47.1″E / 41.910806°N 12.479750°E / 41.910806; 12.479750 (Pinciano)
Commissioned by Hadrian and erected in Tivoli for the tomb of Antinous. Moved to Rome by Elagabalus to decorate the spina of the Circus Varianus. Found in the 16th century near the Porta Maggiore. Moved to the Palazzo Barberini, then moved to the Vatican by Pope Clement XIV; finally erected on the Pincian by Pope Pius VII in 1822.

Obelisk of Axum

The Obelisk of Axum in Rome in 2002 2 giugno 2002-Axum.JPG
The Obelisk of Axum in Rome in 2002

There was also an Ethiopian obelisk in Rome, the Obelisk of Axum, 24 m, placed in the Piazza di Porta Capena. It had been taken from Axum by the Italian Army during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1937. It was struck by lightning in May 2002. After being restored, it was cut into three pieces and returned to Ethiopia in April 2005.

Modern obelisks

The Marconi obelisk, in the centre of the EUR district Roma - EUR - Obelisco EUR.jpg
The Marconi obelisk, in the centre of the EUR district

There are five well-known modern obelisks in Rome:

Former locations of some obelisks

See also

Monoliths

Roman triumphal monuments

Notes

  1. Supported on bronze lions and surmounted by the Chigi arms in bronze, in all 41 m to the cross on its top

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Heliopolis (ancient Egypt) City of ancient Egypt

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An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. Originally they were called tekhenu by their builders, the Ancient Egyptians. The Greeks who saw them used the Greek term obeliskos to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English. Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones.

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St. Peters Square plaza in Vatican City

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Lateran Palace Ancient palace of the Roman Empire and the main papal residence in Rome

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Circus Flaminius circus

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Piazza del Popolo square in Rome, Italy

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Pincian Hill hill in Rome, Italy

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Circus of Maxentius circus

The Circus of Maxentius is an ancient structure in Rome, Italy; it is part of a complex of buildings erected by emperor Maxentius on the Via Appia between AD 306 and 312. It is situated between the second and third miles of the Via Appia between the basilica and catacombs of San Sebastiano and the imposing late republican tomb of Caecilia Metella, which dominates the hill that rises immediately to the east of the complex. It is part of the Parco Regionale Appia Antica.

Porta Tiburtina Gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy

Porta Tiburtina or Porta San Lorenzo is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy, through which the Via Tiburtina exits the city.

Lateran Obelisk obelisk

The Lateran Obelisk is the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world, and it is also the tallest obelisk in Italy. It originally weighed 413 tonnes, but after collapsing and being re-erected 4 metres (13 ft) shorter, now weighs around 300 tonnes. It is located in Rome, in the square across from the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and the San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital.

Solarium Augusti Roman solar marker in the Campus Martius

The Solarium Augusti was an ancient Roman monument in the Campus Martius constructed during the reign of Augustus. It functioned as a giant solar marker, according to various interpretations serving either as a simple meridian line or as a sundial.

Obelisk of Montecitorio red granite obelisk

The Obelisk of Montecitorio, also known as Solare, is an ancient Egyptian, red granite obelisk of Psammetichus II from Heliopolis. Brought to Rome with the Flaminio Obelisk in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus to be used as the gnomon of the Solarium Augusti, it is now in the Piazza Montecitorio. It is 21.79 metres (71 ft) high, and 33.97 metres (111 ft) including the base and the globe.

El Matareya, Cairo Urban district

Mataria is a district in the northern region of Greater Cairo, east of the Nile, in Egypt. The district is unrelated to the coastal town in the Dakahlia Governorate, that is also named El Matareya. The district's location was part of the ancient city of Heliopolis, one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt.

Obelisk ships were ships used to transport obelisks. Today, eight Ancient Egyptian obelisks stand in Rome, though not in their original places. The first of the obelisks, the 263-ton Flaminian obelisk, was transported from Heliopolis – modern-day Cairo – in 10 BCE. while the last, the 500-ton Lateran obelisk, was transported from Karnak.

Flaminio Obelisk obelisk in Rome

The Flaminio Obelisk is one of the thirteen ancient obelisks in Rome, Italy. It is located in the Piazza del Popolo.

Circus Varianus circus

Circus Varianus was a Roman circus, possibly started around the time of Caracalla, residing in the palatial villa complex known as the Sessorium, beside the Amphitheatrum Castrense. This circus has been identified as the space in which Elagabalus raced horses under the family name of Varius, lending the site the name of "Circus Varianus." The remnants of the circus survive to the south of Porta Maggiore, next to the Aurelian Wall, near the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The dimensions of the circus measure 565 x 125 meters, just slightly smaller than the Circus Maximus.

Outline of Rome Overview of and topical guide to Rome

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Rome:

References

  1. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/egypt/raising/rome.html
  2. 1 2 http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/menhirs.htm
  3. Touring Club Italiano, Roma e Dintorni.
  4. 1 2 Travels and Adventures , Chapter 3, Pero Tafur, digitized from The Broadway Travellers series, edited by Sir E. Denison Ross and Eileen Power, translated and edited with an introduction by Malcolm Letts (New York, London: Harper & brothers 1926):
    On the other side of it is a high tower made of one piece of stone, like a three-cornered diamond raised upon three brazen feet; and many, taking it for a holy thing, creep between the ground and the base of that tower. This was a work undertaken in honour of Julius Caesar and assigned for his burial, and on the top of it are three large gilt apples in which is the dust of the Emperor [ sic ] Julius Caesar, and certainly it is a noble edifice and marvellously ordered and very strange. It is called Caesar's needle, and in the middle and at the base, and even at the top, are a few ancient letters carved in the stone which now cannot well be read, but in fact they record that the body of Julius Caesar was buried there.
  5. Pedro Tafur's Andanças (1874 edition) referenced in the Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico , Joan Corominas, José Antonio Pascual, 1987, Editorial Gredos, Tome I, ISBN   84-249-1361-2, entry carnicol, page 880.
  6. L'Italia. Roma (guida rossa), Touring Club Italiano, Milano 2004
  7. Edward Chaney, "Roma Britannica and the Cultural Memory of Egypt: Lord Arundel and the Obelisk of Domitian", in Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome, eds. D. Marshall, K. Wolfe and S. Russell, British School at Rome, 2011, pp. 147-70.

Further reading

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