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One of the two Luxor obelisks, in the Place de la Concorde in Paris; a red granite monolithic column, 23 metres (75 feet) high, including the base, which weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons).

An obelisk (/ˈɒbəlɪsk/; from Ancient Greek: ὀβελίσκος obeliskos;[1][2] diminutive of ὀβελός obelos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar"[3]) is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. These were originally 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.[4] Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones; some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.

The term stele is generally used for other monumental, upright, inscribed and sculpted stones.

Ancient obelisks[edit]


Pylon of the Temple of Luxor with the remaining obelisk (of two) in front (the second is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris).
Obelisk of Pharaoh Senusret I, Al-Maalla area of Al-Matariyyah district in modern Heliopolis.

Obelisks played a vital role in their religion and were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of the temples. The word "obelisk" as used in English today is of Greek rather than Egyptian origin because Herodotus, the Greek traveller, was one of the first classical writers to describe the objects. A number of ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to have survived, plus the "Unfinished Obelisk" found partly hewn from its quarry at Aswan. These obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt.

The earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 68-foot (20.7 m) 120-metric-ton (130-short-ton)[5] red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah in modern Heliopolis.[6]

The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the religious reformation of Akhenaten it was said to have been a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure.

Benben was the mound that arose from the primordial waters Nu upon which the creator god Atum settled in the creation story of the Heliopolitan creation myth form of Ancient Egyptian religion. The Benben stone (also known as a pyramidion) is the top stone of the Egyptian pyramid. It is also related to the Obelisk.

It is hypothesized by New York University Egyptologist Patricia Blackwell Gary and Astronomy senior editor Richard Talcott that the shapes of the ancient Egyptian pyramid and obelisk were derived from natural phenomena associated with the sun (the sun-god Ra being the Egyptians' greatest deity).[7] The pyramid and obelisk's significance have been previously overlooked, especially the astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset: the zodiacal light and sun pillars respectively.

Around 30 B.C., after Cleopatra "the last Pharaoh" committed suicide, Rome took control of Egypt. The Ancient Romans were awestruck by the obelisks, and looted the complex to the extent that they destroyed walls at the Temple of Karnak to haul out obelisks. There are now more than twice as many obelisks that were seized and shipped out by Rome as remain in Egypt. A majority were dismantled during the Roman period over 1, 700 years ago and the obelisk were sent in different locations.

The largest standing and tallest Egyptian obelisk is the Lateran Obelisk in the square at the west side of the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet (32.2 m) tall and a weight of 455 metric tons (502 short tons).[8]

Not all the Egyptian obelisks in the Roman Empire were set up at Rome. Herod the Great imitated his Roman patrons and set up a red granite Egyptian obelisk in the hippodrome of his new city Caesarea in northern Judea. This one is about 40 feet (12 m) tall and weighs about 100 metric tons (110 short tons).[9] It was discovered by archaeologists and has been re-erected at its former site.

In 335 A.D., Constantine I ordered the removal of two of Karnak's obelisks. One was sent to Constantinople, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius took the obelisk and had it set up in a hippodrome, where it has weathered Crusaders and Seljuks and stands in the Hippodrome square which is now called Istanbul. This one stood 95 feet (29 m) tall and weighing 380 metric tons (420 short tons). Its lower half reputedly also once stood in Istanbul but is now lost. The Istanbul obelisk is 65 feet (20 m) tall.[10]

The other was transported to Rome and is probably the most well-known 25 metres (82 ft), 331-metric-ton (365-short-ton) obelisk at Saint Peter's Square in the world.[8] The obelisk had stood since AD 37 on its site and on the wall of the Circus of Nero, flanking St Peter's Basilica:

"The elder Pliny in his Natural History refers to the obelisk's transportation from Egypt to Rome by order of the Emperor Gaius (Caligula) as an outstanding event. The barge that carried it had a huge mast of fir wood which four men's arms could not encircle. One hundred and twenty bushels of lentils were needed for ballast. Having fulfilled its purpose, the gigantic vessel was no longer wanted. Therefore, filled with stones and cement, it was sunk to form the foundations of the foremost quay of the new harbour at Ostia."[11]

Re-erecting the obelisk had daunted even Michelangelo, but Sixtus V was determined to erect it in front of St Peter's, of which the nave was yet to be built. He had a full-sized wooden mock-up erected within months of his election. Domenico Fontana, the assistant of Giacomo Della Porta in the Basilica's construction, presented the Pope with a little model crane of wood and a heavy little obelisk of lead, which Sixtus himself was able to raise by turning a little winch with his finger. Fontana was given the project.

The obelisk, half-buried in the debris of the ages, was first excavated as it stood; then it took from 30 April to 17 May 1586 to move it on rollers to the Piazza: it required nearly 1000 men, 140 carthorses, and 47 cranes. The re-erection, scheduled for 14 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, was watched by a large crowd. It was a famous feat of engineering, which made the reputation of Fontana, who detailed it in a book illustrated with copperplate etchings, Della Trasportatione dell'Obelisco Vaticano et delle Fabriche di Nostro Signore Papa Sisto V (1590),[12][13] which itself set a new standard in communicating technical information and influenced subsequent architectural publications by its meticulous precision.[14] Before being re-erected the obelisk was exorcised. It is said that Fontana had teams of relay horses to make his getaway if the enterprise failed. When Carlo Maderno came to build the Basilica's nave, he had to put the slightest kink in its axis, to line it precisely with the obelisk.

Three more obelisks were erected in Rome under Sixtus V: the one behind Santa Maria Maggiore (1587), the giant obelisk at the Lateran Basilica (1588), and the one at Piazza del Popolo (1589).[15]

An obelisk stands in front of the church of Trinità dei Monti, at the head of the Spanish Steps. Another obelisk in Rome is sculpted as carried on the back of an elephant. Rome lost one of its obelisks, the Boboli obelisk which had decorated the temple of Isis, where it was uncovered in the 16th century. The Medici claimed it for the Villa Medici, but in 1790 they moved it to the Boboli Gardens attached to the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and left a replica in its stead.

The Romans filled their city with 8 large and 42 small Egyptian obelisks. More have been re-erected elsewhere, and the best-known examples outside Rome are the pair of 21-metre (69 ft) 187-metric-ton (206-short-ton) Cleopatra's Needles in London (21 metres or 69 feet) and New York City (21 metres or 70 feet) and the 23-metre (75 ft) 227-metric-ton (250-short-ton) obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.[16]

Tip of Hatshepsut's fallen obelisk, Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor, Egypt
The Obelisk of Tuthmosis III, Istanbul, Turkey
The Dutch Golden Age painter Bartholomeus Breenbergh placed an obelisk in the background of his 1655 painting Joseph Sells Grain

There are ancient Egyptian obelisks in the following locations:


Obelisk monuments are also known from the Assyrian civilization, where they were erected as public monuments that commemorated the achievements of the Assyrian king.

The British Museum possesses four Assyrian obelisks:

The White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I (named due to its colour), was discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 at Nineveh. The obelisk was erected by either Ashurnasirpal I (1050–1031 BC) or Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC). The obelisk bears an inscription that refers to the king's seizure of goods, people and herds, which he carried back to the city of Ashur. The reliefs of the Obelisk depict military campaigns, hunting, victory banquets and scenes of tribute bearing.

The Rassam Obelisk, named after its discoverer Hormuzd Rassam, was found on the citadel of Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). It was erected by Ashurnasirpal II, though only survives in fragments. The surviving parts of the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing to the king from Syria and the west.[19]

The Black Obelisk was discovered by Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 on the citadel of Kalhu. The obelisk was erected by Shalmaneser III and the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing as well as the depiction of two subdued rulers, Jehu the Israelite and Sua the Gilzanean, giving gestures of submission to the king. The reliefs on the obelisk have accompanying epigraphs, but besides these the obelisk also possesses a longer inscription that records one of the latest versions of Shalmaneser III's annals, covering the period from his accessional year to his 33rd regnal year.

The Broken Obelisk, that was also discovered by Rassam at Nineveh. Only the top of this monolith has been reconstructed in the British Museum. The obelisk is the oldest recorded obelisk from Assyria, dating to the 11th century BC.[20]

Axumite (Ethiopia)[edit]

A number of obelisks were carved in the ancient Axumite Kingdom of today northern Ethiopia. Together with (21-metre-high or 69-foot) King Ezana's Stele, the last erected one and the only unbroken, the most famous example of axumite obelisk is the so-called (24-metre-high or 79-footh) Obelisk of Axum. It was carved around the 4th century AD and, in the course of time, it collapsed and broke into three parts. In these conditions it was found by Italian soldiers in 1935, after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, looted and taken to Rome in 1937, where it stood in the Piazza di Porta Capena. Italy agreed in a 1947 UN agreement to return the obelisk but did not affirm its agreement until 1997, after years of pressure and various controversial settlements. In 2003 the Italian government made the first steps toward its return, and in 2008 it was finally re-erected.

The largest known obelisk, the Great Stele at Axum, now fallen, at 33 metres (108 ft) high and 3 m (9.8 ft) by 2 m (6 ft 7 in) at the base (520 metric tons or 570 short tons)[21] is one of the largest single pieces of stone ever worked in human history (the largest is either at Baalbek or the Ramesseum) and probably fell during erection or soon after, destroying a large part of the massive burial chamber underneath it. The obelisks, properly termed stelae or the native hawilt or hawilti as they do not end in a pyramid, were used to mark graves and underground burial chambers. The largest of the grave markers were for royal burial chambers and were decorated with multi-storey false windows and false doors, while nobility would have smaller less decorated ones. While there are only a few large ones standing, there are hundreds of smaller ones in "stelae fields".

Ancient Roman[edit]

The Walled Obelisk in Sultanahmet Square

The Romans commissioned obelisks in an ancient Egyptian style. Examples include:


  • Walled Obelisk, Hippodrome of Constantinople. Built by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905–959) and originally covered with gilded bronze plaques.


The prehistoric Tello Obelisk, found in 1919 at Chavín de Huantar in Peru, is a monolith stele with obelisk-like proportions. It was carved in a design of low relief with Chavín symbols, such as bands of teeth and animal heads. Long housed in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú in Lima, it was relocated to the Museo Nacional de Chavín, which opened in July 2008. The obelisk was named for the archeologist Julio C. Tello, who discovered it and was considered the "father of Peruvian archeology." He was America's first indigenous archeologist.[24]

Modern obelisks[edit]

(Listed in date order)

17th century[edit]

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins Fontaine-des-Quatre-Dauphins in Aix-en-Provence.JPG Aix-en-Provence France 1667 43°31′35″N 5°26′44″E / 43.52639°N 5.44556°E / 43.52639; 5.44556

18th century[edit]

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Market Square obelisk The obelisk, Ripon market place (geograph 4950159).jpg Ripon United Kingdom 24 80 1702 The first large scale obelisk in Britain.[25]
Stillorgan Obelisk Stillorgan Obelisk Tower.jpg Stillorgan, Dublin Ireland 30 100 1727
St Luke Church Finsbury st lukes 1.jpg London United Kingdom circa 1727–33 spire by Nicholas Hawksmoor
Boyne Obelisk Square obelisk by footbridge with iron railing over wide stream, woods in background, Drogheda, Co. Meath cleaned up version.jpg near Drogheda, County Louth Ireland 53 174 1736 To commemorate William of Orange's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (destroyed in 1923, only the base remains).
Conolly's Folly Conollys Folly - the obelisk.jpg Celbridge, County Kildare Ireland 1740
Killiney Hill Obelisk Killiney Hill Obelisk 2.jpg Killiney, County Dublin Ireland 1742
Mamhead obelisk Obelisk, Mamhead - geograph.org.uk - 814943.jpg Mamhead United Kingdom 30 100 1742–1745 An aid to shipping.[26]
General Wolfe's Obelisk Stowe, Wolfe's Obelisk - geograph.org.uk - 152791.jpg Stowe School, Buckinghamshire United Kingdom 1754
Montreal Park Obelisk Riverhead, Sevenoaks, Kent United Kingdom 1761 Lord Jeffery Amherst's Obelisk.[27]
St George's Circus Obelisk St George's Obelisk.jpg St George's Circus, London United Kingdom 1771 Obelisk by Robert Mylne
Kagul Obelisk Kagul obelisk.jpg Tsarskoe Selo Russia 1772
Chesma Obelisk Gatchina. Chesmensky obelisk. 2010 (2).jpg Gatchina Russia 1775
Villa Medici Giardini di villa medici, piazzale, fontana con copia obelisco di boboli (un tempo qui).JPG Rome Italy 1790 A 19th-century copy of the Egyptian obelisk moved to the Boboli Gardens in Florence
Obelisk Fountain Restored Obelisk Fountain on James street in Dublin 1790.jpg James St., Dublin Ireland 1790
Constable Obelisk Gatchina obelisk.JPG Gatchina Palace, Gatchina Russia 1793
Moore-Vallotton Incident marker Wexford Ireland 1793 [28]
Rumyantsev Obelisk Rumyantsev skver.jpg St Petersburg Russia 1799
Obelisk at Slottsbacken Obelisken.jpg Stockholm Sweden 1800

19th century[edit]

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Nelson memorial Springfield Park Liverpool, England United Kingdom circa 1805
St. Emmeram's Palace Obelisk Obelisk Emmeramsplatz Regensburg-1.JPG Regensburg, Bavaria Germany circa 1810
Constitution Obelisk St. Augustine, Florida United States 1814 In commemoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812
Brightling Needle Brightling, East Sussex United Kingdom 20 65 circa 1815 [29]
Patriots' Grave, Old Burying Ground Patriots' Grave, Old Burying Ground, Arlington, Massachusetts.JPG Arlington, Massachusetts United States 1818 42°24′58″N 71°09′31″W / 42.41611°N 71.15861°W / 42.41611; -71.15861
George IV Monument Dun laoghaire obelisk.jpg Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland 1823
Blantyre Monument Monument near Bishopton - geograph.org.uk - 448575.jpg Erskine, Renfrewshire United Kingdom 24 80 circa 1825 [30]
Captain Cook's Monument Easby Moor, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire United Kingdom 15.5 51 1827 [31]
Groton Monument GrotonMemorial.jpg Fort Griswold, Groton, Connecticut United States 41 135 1830 41°21′18″N 72°4′46″W / 41.35500°N 72.07944°W / 41.35500; -72.07944 [32]
Bunker Hill Monument Bunker hill 2009.JPG Charlestown, Massachusetts United States 67 221 1827-43 42°22′35″N 71°03′41″W / 42.37639°N 71.06139°W / 42.37639; -71.06139 [33]
Spencer Monument Ponsonby Obelisk.jpeg Blata l-Bajda Malta 1831
(relocated 1893)
35°53′17″N 14°29′53″E / 35.88806°N 14.49806°E / 35.88806; 14.49806 [34]
Thomas Jefferson Obelisk, Monticello Charlottesville, Virginia United States 1833 38°00′37″N 78°27′08″W / 38.01028°N 78.45222°W / 38.01028; -78.45222 Erected by his family, Jefferson had willed that only three achievements be sketched onto it: Author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.[35]
Obelisk of Lions, Copou Park Obeliscul Leilor din Iaşi.jpg Iași Romania 13.5 44 1834 47°10′43″N 27°34′01″E / 47.17851°N 27.56691°E / 47.17851; 27.56691 [36]
Villa Torlonia Obelisco.JPG Rome Italy 1842 41°54′50″N 12°30′43″E / 41.91389°N 12.51194°E / 41.91389; 12.51194 Two obelisks
Reggio Emilia obelisk Tempio della Beata Vergine della Ghiara.JPG Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna Italy 1842 44°42′0″N 10°38′0″E / 44.70000°N 10.63333°E / 44.70000; 10.63333 Commemorates marriage of Francis V, Duke of Modena to princess Adelgunde of Bavaria
Rutherford's Monument Anwoth, Scotland United Kingdom 1842 A memorial to Samuel Rutherford
Political Martyrs' Monument Martyrs Monument, Calton Hill.jpg Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom 27 90 1844 55°57′12″N 3°11′9″W / 55.95333°N 3.18583°W / 55.95333; -3.18583 [37]
Lansdowne Monument The Lansdowne Monument - geograph.org.uk - 220145.jpg Wiltshire, England United Kingdom 38 125 1845 51°25′22″N 1°55′58″W / 51.4228°N 1.9327°W / 51.4228; -1.9327 Erected by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne to commemorate Sir William Petty.[38]
The Obelisk Obelisk - Macquarie Pier - Newcastle NSW (5619925515).jpg Newcastle, New South Wales Australia 1850
Wellington Monument Wellington Monument, Somerset.jpg Wellington, Somerset United Kingdom 53 175 1854 50°56′53″N 3°13′45″W / 50.9480°N 3.2293°W / 50.9480; -3.2293 [39]
Stoodley Pike Monument Stoodley Pike 2.jpg Todmorden, West Yorkshire United Kingdom 37 121 1856 53°42′51″N 2°2′33″W / 53.71417°N 2.04250°W / 53.71417; -2.04250 [40]
Hyde Park Obelisk Hyde Park Obelisk 1.jpg Sydney, New South Wales Australia 22 72 1857 33°52′29″S 151°12′36″E / 33.87472°S 151.21000°E / -33.87472; 151.21000 [41]
Herndon Monument Herndon Monument.jpg Annapolis, Maryland United States 6.4 21 1860 38°58′56″N 76°29′09″W / 38.9823°N 76.4859°W / 38.9823; -76.4859 Erected by the US Naval Academy to commemorate the loss of William Lewis Herndon.
Obelisk of Fontenoy Fontenoy obelisk IMG 2132.jpg Fontenoy, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté France 1860
Wellington Monument Ireland - Dublin - Phoenix Park - Wellington Monument.jpg Phoenix Park, Dublin Ireland 62 203 1861 The tallest in Europe.
Prince of Wales' Obelisk Port Elizabeth Obelisk at Bayworld.JPG Port Elizabeth South Africa Intended for one George Kemp but erected to commemorate the marriage of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Alexandra of Denmark in 1861. Originally on Market Square, now in front of the Bayworld Museum Complex.[citation needed]
Lincoln Tomb Abraham Lincoln Tomb Springfield Illiois.jpg Springfield, Illinois United States 36 117 1865 39°49′24″N 89°39′21″W / 39.82333°N 89.65583°W / 39.82333; -89.65583 [42]
Tyndale Monument
Tyndale Monument
34 North Nibley, Gloucestershire, England 34 111 1866
Nicholson's Obelisk Nicholsons Monument.jpg Margalla Hills, RawalpindiIslamabad Pakistan 12 40 1868 [43]
Captain Cook Obelisk Kurnell.JPG Kurnell, New South Wales Australia 1870 34°00′17″S 151°13′03″E / 34.004667°S 151.217556°E / -34.004667; 151.217556 [44]
Dauphin County Veteran's Memorial Obelisk Harrisburg, Pennsylvania United States 34 110 1876 40°15′47″N 76°53′13″W / 40.26304°N 76.88681°W / 40.26304; -76.88681 [45]
Washington Monument Washington Monument Top.jpg Washington, D.C. United States 169 555 1884 38°53′22″N 77°2′7″W / 38.88944°N 77.03528°W / 38.88944; -77.03528 [46]
Oriskany Battlefield monument OriskanyBattlefield monument December2007.jpg Rome, New York United States 1884 43°10′7″N 75°22′8″W / 43.16861°N 75.36889°W / 43.16861; -75.36889 [47]
Monument to the Restorers Lisboa - Monumento aos Restauradores.jpg Restauradores Square, Lisbon Portugal 1886 38°42′57″N 9°8′30″W / 38.71583°N 9.14167°W / 38.71583; -9.14167 Erected to celebrate the victory in the Portuguese Restoration War (1640–1668).
Ludwig van Beethoven's grave Beethoven Grave rotcrop.jpg Vienna Central Cemetery Austria 1888
Bennington Battle Monument CW memorial Bennington VT.jpg Bennington, Vermont United States 92 or 93 301 or 306 1889 42°53′21″N 73°12′57″W / 42.88917°N 73.21583°W / 42.88917; -73.21583 [48]
Monolith "The Obelisk" Villalar de los Comuneros Monumento a los comuneros.JPG Villalar de los Comuneros, Castile and León Spain 1889 41°33′0″N 5°8′0″W / 41.55000°N 5.13333°W / 41.55000; -5.13333
Dalhousie Obelisk Dalhousie Obelisk 2, Jan 06.JPG Raffles Place, Central Area Singapore 1891 1°17′15″N 103°51′8″E / 1.28750°N 103.85222°E / 1.28750; 103.85222 [49]
The Obelisk, Penn State University Penn state oblisk.jpg University Park, Pennsylvania United States 1896
Confederate War Memorial Monument1.JPG Dallas, Texas United States 1896 32°46′32″N 96°47′59″W / 32.77556°N 96.79972°W / 32.77556; -96.79972 [50]

20th century[edit]

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
William Dudley Chipley Memorial Wmdudleychipleyobelisk.jpg Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola, Florida United States 1901 30°26′N 87°12′W / 30.433°N 87.200°W / 30.433; -87.200
Sergeant Floyd Monument Sergeant Floyd Monument, sunset.jpg Sioux City, Iowa United States 1901 42°27′45″N 96°22′39″W / 42.46250°N 96.37750°W / 42.46250; -96.37750 [51]
Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial JosephSmithBirthplace.JPG South Royalton, Vermont United States 15 50 1905 43°49′25″N 72°28′23″W / 43.823473°N 72.47308°W / 43.823473; -72.47308 [52]:118
McKinley Monument McKinley Monument.jpg Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York United States 29 96 1907 42°53′11″N 78°52′41″W / 42.88639°N 78.87806°W / 42.88639; -78.87806 [53]
The Veterans' Monument Elizabethton, Tennessee United States 1904 Dedicated to American Civil War veterans from Carter County, Tennessee.
Finn's Point National Cemetery Pennsville Township, New Jersey United States 26 85 1910 Erected by the U.S. government in 1910 to memorialize Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery.
Coronation Memorial The Obelsik marking the Durbar of King George V at Coronation Park, Delhi.2JPG.jpg Coronation Park, Delhi India To commemorate the founding of New Delhi in 1911 followed by other obelisks around the Rashtrapati Bhavan
Victory Memorial Fort Recovery obelisk.jpg Fort Recovery, Ohio United States 31 101 1913 [54]
Rizal Monument Statue of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park, Philippines.png Luneta Park, Manila Philippines 12.7 42 1913 14°34′54″N 120°58′36″E / 14.581669°N 120.976694°E / 14.581669; 120.976694 built to commemorate the executed Filipino nationalist, José Rizal.
National Women's Monument 9 2 302 0045-Women's Monument Bloemfontein-s.jpg Bloemfontein South Africa 1913 29°08′30″S 26°12′30″E / 29.1416°S 26.2083°E / -29.1416; 26.2083 [55]
Ozark Trail Obelisk commemorating Ozark Trail in Farwell, Texas.JPG Various locations including Stroud, Oklahoma, Farwell, Dimmitt, Wellington, and Tulia, Texas United States 1913 Formerly a series of 21 obelisks
PAX Memorial Walmer, Port Elizabeth South Africa 6 20 1919 A World War I memorial to local fallen soldiers.[56]
Flagler Monument Flagler-Memorial-Island-MAR2007.jpg Flagler Monument Island, Miami Beach, Florida United States 34 110 1920 25°47′7″N 80°9′10″W / 25.78528°N 80.15278°W / 25.78528; -80.15278 [57]
Southport War Memorial Obelisk, Lord Street, Southport (2).JPG London Square, Southport, Lancashire, England United Kingdom 20.6 67.5 1923
Veterans Memorial Plaza Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Indianápolis, Estados Unidos, 2012-10-22, DD 01.jpg Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Indianapolis, Indiana United States 30 100 1923 39°46′25″N 86°9′25″W / 39.77361°N 86.15694°W / 39.77361; -86.15694 [58]
Jefferson Davis Monument JeffDavisMemorial.jpg Fairview, Kentucky United States 107 351 1924 Commemorating the birthplace
of the President
of the Confederate States of America
Boer War Monument King's Domain, Melbourne, Victoria Australia 23 75 1924 [59]
Camp Merritt Memorial Monument Camp Merritt Memorial Monument.jpg Cresskill, New Jersey United States 20 66 1924 Monument dedicated to the soldiers who passed through Camp Merritt, New Jersey, en route to Europe in World War I, particularly those who died at the camp due to the influenza epidemic of 1918
Hobart Cenotaph Hobart-War-Memorial-Cenotaph-2008.jpg Queens Domain, Hobart, Tasmania Australia 1925 42°52′39″S 147°20′10″E / 42.87750°S 147.33611°E / -42.87750; 147.33611 A World War I memorial[60]
The Big Red Apple Cornelia, Georgia Big Red Apple.JPG Cornelia, Georgia United States 2.4 8 1925 34°30′49″N 83°31′51″W / 34.51361°N 83.53083°W / 34.51361; -83.53083 A short square obelisk with the world's largest apple on top stands[61]
Prague Castle Obelisk
(or Monolith from Mrákotín)
Prague Castle, Obelisk 2.JPG Prague Castle, Prague Czech Republic 15.42 50.6 1930 50°5′25″N 14°24′1″E / 50.09028°N 14.40028°E / 50.09028; 14.40028
Obelisk of Montevideo
(or Obelisco a los Constituyentes de 1830)
Obelisco a los constituyentes.jpg Parque Batlle, Montevideo Uruguay 40 130 1930 34°53′51″S 56°09′52″W / 34.8975°S 56.1644°W / -34.8975; -56.1644 [62]
High Point Monument High Point Monument from below.jpg High Point, Montague, New Jersey United States 67 220 1930 41°19′15″N 74°39′42″W / 41.32083°N 74.66167°W / 41.32083; -74.66167 Located on top of New Jersey's highest point, 550 m (1,803 ft) above sea level.
Foro Italico Le Foro Italico (Rome) (5906477156).jpg Lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz, Rome Italy 1932 41°55′55″N 12°27′32″E / 41.93194°N 12.45889°E / 41.93194; 12.45889 Erected to honour Benito Mussolini.
Paterson Monument Paterson Monument.jpg Windmill Point, George Town, Tasmania Australia 1935 41°06′34″S 146°49′01″E / 41.10944°S 146.81694°E / -41.10944; 146.81694 Erected to commemorate the 1804 landing of William Paterson (explorer).[63]
Obelisk of Buenos Aires Obelisco 2.JPG San Nicolás, Buenos Aires Argentina 71.5 235 1936 34°36′13″S 58°22′54″W / 34.60361°S 58.38167°W / -34.60361; -58.38167
Trujillo Obelisk Obelisco Santo Domingo.jpg Santo Domingo Dominican Republic 42 137 1937
War Memorial Floriana War memorial.jpeg Floriana Malta 1938 35°53′37″N 14°30′29″E / 35.89361°N 14.50806°E / 35.89361; 14.50806 [64]
San Jacinto Monument San Jacinto Monument.jpg La Porte, Texas United States 172.92 567.3 1939 29°45′00″N 95°04′51″W / 29.7499°N 95.0807°W / 29.7499; -95.0807 [65][note 1]
Trylon and Perisphere 1939fairhelicline.jpg 1939 New York World's Fair, Flushing, New York United States 190 620 1939 40°44′47″N 73°50′42″W / 40.7463°N 73.8451°W / 40.7463; -73.8451 Not a true obelisk, but an art deco variant.
Maungakiekie Obelisk Onetreehill monument01.jpg One Tree Hill, Auckland New Zealand 1940 36°54′0″S 174°46′59″E / 36.90000°S 174.78306°E / -36.90000; 174.78306 [67]
Victory Monument VictoryMonument - contrast.JPG Bangkok Thailand 1941 13°45′53″N 100°32′19″E / 13.76472°N 100.53861°E / 13.76472; 100.53861 To commemorate the Thai victory in the Franco-Thai War, a brief conflict waged against the French colonial authorities in Indo-China, which resulted in Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia and northern and southern Laos. These were among the territories which the Kingdom of Siam had been forced to cede to France in 1893 and 1904, and patriotic Thais considered them rightfully to belong to Thailand.
Plaza Francia Obelisk Plaza Francia.jpg Altamira, Caracas Venezuela 1944 10°29′47″N 66°50′56″W / 10.49639°N 66.84889°W / 10.49639; -66.84889
Banská Bystrica Obelisk Banská Bystrica NamSNP 9238.JPG Banská Bystrica Slovakia 1945 Commemorates the soldiers of the Red Army and those of the Romanian Army who fell while liberating the town.
Cenotaph on Leinster Lawn Cenetaphleinsterlawn2012.jpg Leinster House, Dublin Ireland 18.28 60.0 1950 53°20′26″N 6°15′14″W / 53.34055°N 6.254021°W / 53.34055; -6.254021 Erected to commemorate the memories of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Kevin O'Higgins;[68] and replaced an earlier temporary cenotaph, erected in 1923.[69]
Lucas Gusher Obelisk Beaumont, Texas United States 1951 Recognizes the 50th anniversary of the birth of the liquid fuel age as the Lucas Gusher came in at Spindletop on January 10, 1901.
Heroes Monument Heroic Monument Surabaya.jpg Surabaya Indonesia 41.5 135.0 1952 7°14′46″S 112°44′15″E / 7.24611°S 112.73750°E / -7.24611; 112.73750 Commemorate the events of November 10, 1945 at the Battle of Surabaya
Israel War of Independence Memorial Meron 181.jpg Safed Israel 32°57′57″N 35°29′54″E / 32.96583°N 35.49833°E / 32.96583; 35.49833
Obelisk of São Paulo Obelisk of Sao Paulo.jpg São Paulo Brazil 72 236 1954 23°35′5″S 46°39′17″W / 23.58472°S 46.65472°W / -23.58472; -46.65472 [70]
Monument to the abolition of slavery
(Monumento a la abolición de la esclavitud)
IMG 2972 - Abolition Park in Ponce, Puerto Rico.jpg Abolition Park, Ponce Puerto Rico 30 100 1956 18°00′21″N 66°36′46″W / 18.00583°N 66.61278°W / 18.00583; -66.61278 [71]
Obelisk of La Paz Obelisco3LaPaz.JPG La Paz Bolivia 16°29′55″S 68°08′06″W / 16.49861°S 68.13500°W / -16.49861; -68.13500
Demidovsky Pillar Barnaul - Demidov Square.jpg Tsentralny City District, Barnaul, Altai Krai Russia 14 46 53°20′N 83°45′E / 53.333°N 83.750°E / 53.333; 83.750
Victory Obelisk
(Poklonnaya Hill Obelisk)
Victory Park Poklonnaya Hill.jpg Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow Russia 141.8 465 55°43′54″N 37°30′24″E / 55.73167°N 37.50667°E / 55.73167; 37.50667 [72]
Bayonet-Obelisk of the War Memorial Brest Brest Fortress 9085 2150.jpg Brest Fortress, Brest Belarus 100 330 1971 52°04′59″N 23°39′15″E / 52.082961°N 23.654251°E / 52.082961; 23.654251 [73]
Trinity Nuclear Test Site Obelisk Trinity Site Obelisk National Historic Landmark.jpg Jornada del Muerto, Socorro, New Mexico United States 3.7 12 The location of the first atomic bomb explosion.[74]
Cairn to mark the Geographic Centre of North America Rugby-nd-obelisk-geographical-center-of-north-america.jpg Rugby, North Dakota United States 4.6 15 1971 The structure is more like a cairn sited near the geographical center of North America (Mexico, USA and Canada). The location of the geographical center is approximately 15 miles (24 km) for the location of the cairn.[75]
Pirulito da Praça Sete PraçaSeteBHMG.jpg Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais Brazil
Oregon Trail BoiseOregonTrailMonument.jpg Boise, Idaho United States 21 obelisks that mark the trail.[76][77]
Islamic Summit Minar Islamic Summit Minar Charing Cross.jpg Lahore, Punjab Pakistan 47 155 1974 An obelisk-shape structure built to commemorate the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Luxor Hotel Luxor hotel (Las Vegas) obelisc.JPG Las Vegas, Nevada United States The obelisk stands in front of the hotel, a pyramid-shaped hotel along The Strip
Endicott, Triple Cities, New York United States 1975 An obelisk stands in front of radio talk show host Clint Ferro's boyhood home[citation needed]
Monumen Nasional Monas by day.jpg Merdeka Square, Jakarta Indonesia 1975 Symbolizing the fight for the independence of Indonesia
Juche Tower Tower of Juche Idea, Pyongyang, North Korea (2909246855).jpg Pyongyang North Korea 170 560 1982 39°1′4″N 125°45′48″E / 39.01778°N 125.76333°E / 39.01778; 125.76333
Leningrad Hero City Obelisk IvanSmelov-VOSSTANIYA.jpg Vosstaniya Square, Saint Petersburg Russia 1985 59°55′52″N 30°21′43″E / 59.931°N 30.362°E / 59.931; 30.362
1948 Arab–Israeli War Memorial Ashdod-Ad-Halom-83.jpg Ad Halom, Ashdod Israel 31°46′0″N 34°39′58″E / 31.76667°N 34.66611°E / 31.76667; 34.66611 Memorial to Egypt's fallen soldiers[78]
Avis Obelisk Avis Farms Office Park, Pittsfield Township, Michigan United States 1998 42°13′21″N 83°42′52″W / 42.22250°N 83.71444°W / 42.22250; -83.71444
Bahá'í House of Worship Haifa site future Baha'i House of Worship.jpg Bahá'í World Centre buildings, Mount Carmel, Haifa Israel 1971 Marking the site of the future Bahá'í House of Worship.
Independence Monument Obelisk Myanmar-Yangon-Independence Monument in Mahabandoola park.jpg Maha Bandula Park, Yangon Myanmar [79]

21st century[edit]

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Capas National Shrine The Obelisk at the Capas National Shrine.jpg Tarlac province Philippines 70 230 2003 15°20′56″N 120°32′43″E / 15.34891°N 120.545246°E / 15.34891; 120.545246 [citation needed]
Kolonna Eterna Kolonna Eterna, San Gwann..jpeg San Gwann Malta 6 2003 35°54′35″N 14°28′36″E / 35.90972°N 14.47667°E / 35.90972; 14.47667 Egyptian obelisk by Paul Vella Critien[80]
Colonna Mediterranea Colonna Mediterranea.jpeg Luqa Malta 3.0 10 2006 35°51′38″N 14°29′3″E / 35.86056°N 14.48417°E / 35.86056; 14.48417 Abstract art by Paul Vella Critien[81]
Plaza Salcedo Obelisk Plaza Salcedo in Vigan City.JPG Vigan, Ilocos Sur Philippines 17°34′N 120°23′E / 17.567°N 120.383°E / 17.567; 120.383
Cyclisk Santa Rosa, California United States 20 65 Made of 340 bicycles[82]
Obelisco Novecento Rome Italy 2004 Sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro[citation needed]
Armed Forces Memorial National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire United Kingdom 2007
Särkynyt lyhty Tornio, Lapland Finland 9 30 Made of stainless steel[citation needed]

Erection experiments[edit]

In late summer 1999, Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner teamed up with a NOVA crew to erect a 25-ton obelisk. This was the third attempt to erect a 25-ton obelisk; the first two, in 1994 and 1999, ended in failure. There were also two successful attempts to raise a two-ton obelisk and a nine-ton obelisk. Finally in August–September 1999, after learning from their experiences, they were able to erect one successfully.

First Hopkins and Rais Abdel Aleem organized an experiment to tow a block of stone weighing about 25 tons. They prepared a path by embedding wooden rails into the ground and placing a sledge on them bearing a megalith weighing about 25 tons. Initially they used more than 100 people to try to tow it but were unable to budge it. Finally, with well over 130 people pulling at once and an additional dozen using levers to prod the sledge forward, they moved it. Over the course of a day, the workers towed it 10 to 20 feet. Despite problems with broken ropes, they proved the monument could be moved this way.[83] Additional experiments were done in Egypt and other locations to tow megalithic stone with ancient technologies, some of which are listed here.

One experiment was to transport a small obelisk on a barge in the Nile River. The barge was built based on ancient Egyptian designs. It had to be very wide to handle the obelisk, with a 2 to 1 ratio length to width, and it was at least twice as long as the obelisk. The obelisk was about 3.0 metres (10 ft) long and no more than 5 metric tons (5.5 short tons). A barge big enough to transport the largest Egyptian obelisks with this ratio would have had to be close to 61-metre-long (200 ft) and 30-metre-wide (100 ft). The workers used ropes that were wrapped around a guide that enabled them to pull away from the river while they were towing it onto the barge. The barge was successfully launched into the Nile.

The final and successful erection event was organized by Rick Brown, Hopkins, Lehner and Gregg Mullen in a Massachusetts quarry. The preparation work was done with modern technology, but experiments have proven that with enough time and people, it could have been done with ancient technology. To begin, the obelisk was lying on a gravel and stone ramp. A pit in the middle was filled with dry sand. Previous experiments showed that wet sand would not flow as well. The ramp was secured by stone walls. Men raised the obelisk by slowly removing the sand while three crews of men pulled on ropes to control its descent into the pit. The back wall was designed to guide the obelisk into its proper place. The obelisk had to catch a turning groove which would prevent it from sliding. They used brake ropes to prevent it from going too far. Such turning grooves had been found on the ancient pedestals. Gravity did most of the work until the final 15° had to be completed by pulling the obelisk forward. They used brake ropes again to make sure it did not fall forward. On 12 September they completed the project.[84]

This experiment has been used to explain how the obelisks may have been erected in Luxor and other locations. It seems to have been supported by a 3,000-year-old papyrus scroll in which one scribe taunts another to erect a monument for "thy lord". The scroll reads "Empty the space that has been filled with sand beneath the monument of thy Lord."[85] To erect the obelisks at Luxor with this method would have involved using over a million cubic meters of stone, mud brick and sand for both the ramp and the platform used to lower the obelisk.[86] The largest obelisk successfully erected in ancient times weighed 455 metric tons (502 short tons). A 520-metric-ton (570-short-ton) stele was found in Axum, but researchers believe it was broken while attempting to erect it.

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ Measured in 1991 from its footing to the top of its beacon. The footing is 1.41 ft (0.43 m) below the top of the roadway pavement and the top of the beacon is 3.61 feet (1.10 m) above the top of the star.[66]

Further reading[edit]

  • Curran, Brian A., Anthony Grafton, Pamela O. Long, and Benjamin Weiss. Obelisk: A History. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-262-51270-1.
  • Chaney, Edward, "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.
  • Iversen, Erik, Obelisks in exile. Copenhagen, Vol. 1 1968, Vol. 2 1972
  • Wirsching, Armin, Obelisken transportieren und aufrichten in Aegypten und in Rom. Norderstedt: Books on Demand 2007 (3rd ed. 2013), ISBN 978-3-8334-8513-8

External links[edit]