Rome is home to the largest obelisk in the world and it stands in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano.
The Lateran Obelisk, which soars to a height of 32 metres (105 feet), was originally erected by the pharaoh Tuthmosis III (r. 1479-1425 BCE) outside the temple of Amun in Karnak, where it stood for almost two thousand years.
Towards the end of the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337) the obelisk was moved to the port of Alexandria prior to being transported to the city of Constantinople. However, the project was halted by the emperor’s death in 337.
At some point before 357 Emperor Constantine II (r. 337-361) completed the task, using a purpose-built boat manned by 300 oarsmen. The obelisk’s destination, however, was now Rome, where it was erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus.
It is thought that the obelisk was toppled by the Ostrogoths in 547. A thousand or so years later, in 1587, it was found at a depth of 8 metres, broken into three pieces. It was duly repaired and in the following year, by order of Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90), it was set up in its present position by the architect and engineer, Domenico Fontana (1543-1607).
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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