Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top 10 Notable Obelisks Around the World

Vatican Obelisk

An obelisk is a tall four sided stone structure that slants in on the sides and is topped off with a pyramid shape. Ancient Egyptians were known to carve these building creations out of one piece of stone right at the quarry. Obelisk can contain hieroglyphics inscribed on the sides telling their story. See the unfinished obelisk link. It is the largest obelisk in the world and you can see how it was formed. It is located in Aswan, Egypt.

The tallest standing Egyptian obelisk known to exist resides in Rome at St. John Lateran Basilica. It is known as the Lateran Obelisk it weighs approximately 455 tons. Originally it was commissioned by Thutmose III and it was erected by Thutmose IV before the great Karnak temple of Thebes, Egypt. It was requested by Constantine I to be shipped to Constantinople, but he died before it was sent. Constantius II had it shipped instead to Rome, where it was re-erected in the Circus Maximus in 357. At some time it broke into pieces and was buried under the Circus. In the 16th century it was located and dug up, and Pope Sixtus V had it re-erected on a new pedestal on August 3, 1588 on this location. You can click on this Vatican link which brings up an aerial map click on #12 and use your mouse or arrow keys to bring the obelisk into view. Obbserve the special thanks on this page to Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania for their contribution to the virutal reality tour.

In Paris, France at the Placede la Concorde  is a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. This obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple in Egypt. The Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829. King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution. If I have my facts correct this is the same location that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads.

Luxor Obelisk

The obelisk at St. Peter's Square outside St. Peter's Basilica has quite a reputation and you can read additional information about it on Wikipedia and also on This obelisk which comes from Heliopolis, Egypt, was commissioned by Pharaoh Mencares in 1835 BC in honor of the sun. It is an authentic Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Emperor Caligula in 37AD. It was transported by sea erected at the circus of Gaius and Nero.  It was moved to Saint Peter’s Square in 1586. The cross on top was added then and the urn just below the cross was rumored to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. The cross is said to contain remnants of the “true cross”.  It is also said this obelisk was standing and witnessed the upside down crucifixion of Saint Peter.  The obelisk also serves as a sundial which is not something you would immediately notice if  you are not privy to an aerial view. To look up more information you can google the Vatican Obelisk.  There is a great photograph the shows the sundial effect at Wikipedia.

Vatican Obelisk

The obelisk at Narvona Plaza in Rome a copy according to wikipedia was erected by Domitian after the fire which had destroyed a large part of Rome in 80 AD. In AD 309 Maxentius moved the obelisk to the Circus Maximus. The obelisk fell in the twelth century and it broke into five pieces and was buried. In 1648 the obelisk was dug up, repaired and in 1649 it was erected on top of the fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the Fountain of the Four Rivers for Pope Innocent X

Domitian Obelisk

A memorial for the Dover Patrol a Royal Navy Command during World War 1 was set in July 1921, the memorial at Leathercote Point near St Margaret's Bay can be found atop the Cliffs of Dover. Similar memorial obelisks stand at Cap Blanc Nez on the French Coast and at Fort Hamilton, overlooking New York harbor. This is a modern obelisk structure.

Dover Patrol Memorial

The earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 20.7 m / 68 ft high 120 tons red granite the Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah part of Heliopolis. He also rebuilt the important temple of Re-Atum in Heliopolis which was the centre of the sun cult.   

The Obelisk of Buenos Aires is a national historic monument and icon of Buenos Aires. Located in the Plaza de la República, in the intersection of avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio, it was built to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city. Construction began on March 20, 1936 and was inaugurated on May 23 of the same year. It was designed by architect Alberto Prebisch (one of the main architects of the Argentine modernism who also designed the Teatro Gran Rex, in Corrientes and Suipacha). The construction, cost 200,000 pesos moneda nacional, 680 m³ of concrete and 1360 m² of Olaen white stone from Córdoba were used.

Obelisk of Buenos Aires Photo courtesy of J. Acree

The most recognizable structure in Washington D.C. the Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall. It was built to honor the first U.S. president, George Washington and is one of the most visited tourist sites in the United States. The monument is made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, from the top it offers views of over thirty miles. It is considered a modern shaped obelisk. It is both the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk, standing 555 feet 5+18 inches (169.294 m). Taller monumental columns exist, but they are neither all stone nor true obelisks. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet (46 m) or 27% up, shows where construction was halted for a number of years. If you have been flowing news reports in the last few days, philanthropist David M. Rubenstein has donated 7.5 million dollars towards the repair of damages done to the monument when an earthquake struck Washington, D. C. and surrounding areas in August 2011. I thought this was interesting, The Washington Monument was originally intended to be located at the point at which a line running directly south from the center of the White House crossed a line running directly west from the center of the Capitol. Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's 1791 "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of the United States ..." designated this point as the location of the equestrian statue of George Washington that the Continental Congress had voted for in 1783. However, the ground at the intended location proved to be too unstable to support a structure as heavy as the planned obelisk. At that site, 390 feet (119 m) WNW from the Monument, there now stands a small monolith called the Jefferson Pier. I have probably passed this smaller monument on several occasions on my many trips to Washington. Has anyone ever seen it? The next time I am there I will have to find it.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., an obelisk stands in front of the Luxor Hotel, a pyramid-shaped hotel along The Strip. This is not an authentic ancient Egyptian obelisk but I include this in the list because of some of the other unique features and structures surrounding it and prior to seeing the one in Rome and Paris it was th closest I ever got to an almost official obelisk, Sphinx and pyramid. The casino is pretty cool inside too.

The hotel is marked by a 140-foot (43 m)-high obelisk and a 110-foot (34 m)-tall re-creation of the Great Sphinx of Giza. The tip of the pyramid contains a fixed-position spotlight that points directly upward and is claimed to be the brightest beam in the world at over 42.3 billion candle power. The tip of the pyramid hiding just behind the Sphinx contains a fixed-position spotlight that points directly upward and is claimed to be the brightest beam in the world at over 42.3 billion candle power.

Researching and searching the internet I came across another obelisk at this Earth and Science website. The Penn State obelisk was constructed in 1896 as a learning model.  It consists of stones from all over the state of Pennsylvania and other neighboring states.  It is one of the oldest landmarks of the Penn State Campus. Check out this this website link.  I think it is one of the coolest interactive examples of an obelisk.  It states the location the rock came from, the probable geological era it came from and the type of rock.  Does anyone remember being able to write to the state of Pennsylvania for a sample of rocks that are known to be native in Pennsylvania?  I remember doing it in my younger years and getting them in the mail in a plastic container all partitioned and label. In was many, many years ago but it was free.  You didn’t even have to pay shipping and handling.  It was much later the 1896 though.  It was such a big deal to get the packet in the mail.  I don’t know what ever happen to mine but I still have a passion for rocks even the ones in my head.

Symbolism:  According the Seminarians guide at for pagans, the obelisk was a solar symbol that represented a vital flow between heaven and earth, a way of communicating to the divine.  As a pagan monument in the greatest Christian square, it is a symbol of humanity reaching out to Christ.


  1. This was VERY interesting and informative!! I especially liked the Buenos Aires obelisk!

  2. A friend of mine took that picture. I have not seen this one but it would be considered a modern one. I believe they are constructed differently. If anyone knows please share your information. It has been amazing to me once you start to notice these obelisk are all around us. I like the sundial connection, very interesting concept.

  3. I think you may have forgotten an extremely important obelisk in Ethiopia.... You should look at the Aksumite Empire and decide whether a 1700 year old statue should be replaced by some replica obelisk in Las Vegas...

  4. Just like every other media outlet in the world, Africa history continues to be ignored and dismantled...

  5. Thank you for your suggestion. I have not been to Ethiopia, I have only included the ones I have seen. I am starting to recognize more and more of them.