Obelisk of St Peter’s Square

The Vatican Obelisk is a prominent feature of St. Peter’s Square and adds to the grandeur of the space, serving as a historical and symbolic monument at the heart of the Vatican. The obelisk in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, is known as the “Obelisco Vaticano” or the “Vatican Obelisk.

  1. Location:
    • The obelisk is situated in the center of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
  2. Origins:
    • The Vatican Obelisk has ancient Egyptian origins and dates back to the 13th century BCE. It was originally erected in Heliopolis, Egypt, by an unknown pharaoh.
  3. Transportation to Rome:
    • The obelisk was later transported to Rome by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD and was eventually placed in the center of Nero’s Circus, an ancient chariot racing stadium.
  4. Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Design:
    • In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V decided to move the obelisk from its original location to St. Peter’s Square. The task was entrusted to the renowned Baroque architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
  5. Obelisk’s Height:
    • The Vatican Obelisk stands approximately 25.5 meters (84 feet) tall, excluding the cross on top.
  6. Dedication:
    • The obelisk was erected in St. Peter’s Square in 1586, during the papacy of Pope Sixtus V. It was dedicated to the Christian world as a symbol of the triumph of the Church over paganism.
  7. Symbolism:
    • The obelisk is a symbol of the Vatican’s connection to ancient Rome, and its placement in St. Peter’s Square is symbolic of the triumph of Christianity.
  8. Hieroglyphs and Inscriptions:
    • The obelisk is adorned with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and inscriptions. Some of these inscriptions were added during its time in Rome, commemorating the transportation and re-erection of the obelisk.
  9. Restorations:
    • The obelisk has undergone several restorations over the centuries to ensure its preservation. The most recent restoration took place in 2019.
  10. Surrounding Elements:
    • The Vatican Obelisk is surrounded by a circular stone structure that includes a fountain designed by Carlo Maderno and the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul.



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