The ancient Egyptian Obelisk, an early religious symbol to the sun god Ra, fascinates visitors to Rome, which contains more Egyptian obelisks than any other single location and hosts nearly as many as the entire country of Egypt today!
Only 33 Egyptian Obelisks remain intact; only nine remain in Egypt, while eight were set up in Rome at the height of the Holy Roman Empire and still grace Rome’s cityscape today. For more information about the Egyptian Obelisk I recommend you visit the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obelisk
I became fascinated with the Obelisk, with its mix of antiquity, religious iconography, and architectural form, after visiting both Rome and Egypt within a year of one another. Once I found out that so few remain in the world, a photo quest formed, like an old-fashioned scavenger hunt, but using photographs to document my subjects along the way. I have begun my hunt and now have one section complete!
Photography lends itself particularly well as a hobby to a large-scale scavenger hunt of whatever moves or intrigues you. We live in a world of lists, and it is easy to find a subject matter and follow it with camera in hand to capture images that inspire you.
My trek will hopefully lead me through eight countries on four continents to complete my collection. For now, I have photographed Obelisks in New York, Paris, Florence, Egypt, and have recently completed my collection of Egyptian Obelisks in Rome.
Map by Maps-2-Go app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/city-maps-2go
In the map above, Red dots (numbered 1-8) signify Egyptian Obelisks in Rome, while blue dots (lettered A-E) represent Roman Obelisks, easily as beautiful but from a slightly later time period. What follows are my images from the eight Egyptian obelisks in Rome, along with a few of the Roman offerings as well.
The centerpiece of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the Vaticano, without hieroglyphs, serves both as an iconic and ironic pagan symbol in the heart of the Catholic World.
Standing in the center of the famous Piazza del Popolo, Flaminio can be viewed from multiple angels, including the steps of Santa Maria Del Popolo (as seen in my “Streets of Rome” post, an ancient and well-preserved Church made recently more notable from Dan Brown’s novel “Angels and Demons.”
Hiding around the corner from Fontana di Trevi, Solare is easily missed but a beautiful site, nicely juxtaposed visually with the Chamber of Deputies building.
The short, unassuming Minervio stands in the shadows of the Pantheon outside the plain exterior of Santa Maria Sopre Minerva, which contains fine treasures inside, including Michelangelo’s Sculpture of Jesus.
Perhaps more famous than the obelisk itself is the base, a comical elephant carved by Bernini.
Macuteo basks in the majesty of the Pantheon as the centerpiece of Piazza Della Rotonda.
Barigioni’s fountain contains exquisite detail encircling the water surrounding Macuteo.
Relatively off the beaten path, Dogali is commemorates the battle of Dogali, but the area is in relative ruins. The park has been taken over by Gypsies and the base of the obelisk is covered with graffiti. A pure tragedy, this Obelisk has fared much worse than its original companion from Heliopolis, which now graces the Boboli gardens in Florence, once the home of the Medici family.
Lateranense stands as the tallest and largest Ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world, just outside St. John Lateran’s Basilica, another ironic juxtaposition of pagan idolatry combined with one of the properties of the Holy See.
When viewed from beneath, Lateranense appears to reach out to the sun…
The most hidden and hard to find Obelisk in Rome is Matteiano in Villa Celimontana. The unassuming Obelisk has been moved and rebuilt multiple times in its history, and now stands at the end of a walk down a left turn in the park. One would never find this Obelisk casually, and even when seeking it out, it is still quite hard to see. It has clearly been reconstructed without many of its original hieroglyphs and has lost much of its luster, but it serves as the final piece of the set for the Egyptian Obelisks in Rome.
The point of this blog is much less technical, but hopefully both educational and inspirational. Perhaps you too may want to join in the hunt for the Obelisks in Rome, or perhaps you will find something else to seek out through your travels and journey with photography. I hope you too can find something that interests you, is perhaps within your reach if you stretch to find it, and that brings you the challenge and satisfaction of pursuit like my Obelisk quest has done for me.
I have also found the Egyptian Obelisks in Florence, Paris, and New York, as well as four of the nine still standing in Egypt. If I am to capture them all, my journey must take me to The UK, Poland, Tuscany, Turkey, Israel, and back to Egypt. I’m looking forward to the adventure!