An obelisk (diminutive of , “spit, nail, pointed pillar”) is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon. Ancient obelisks were often monolithic, whereas most modern obelisks are made of several stones and can have interior spaces.
The term stele (plural: stelae) is generally used for other monumental standing inscribed sculpted stones.
Ancient Egyptian Obelisks
Obelisks were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of 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.
Pylon of the Temple of Luxor with the remaining Obelisc (of two) in front (the second is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris).
The earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 20.7 m / 68 ft high 120 tons red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah part of Heliopolis.
The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the brief religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure.
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). The pyramid and obelisk might have been inspired by previously overlooked astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset: the zodiacal light and sun pillars respectively.
The Ancient Romans were strongly influenced by the obelisk form, to the extent that there are now more than twice as many obelisks standing in Rome as remain in Egypt. All fell after the Roman period except for the Vatican obelisk and were re-erected in different locations.
The tallest Egyptian obelisk is in the square in front of the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet tall and a weight of 455 tons.
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 tall and weighs about 100 tons. It was discovered by archaeologists and has been re-erected at its former site.
In Constantinople, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius shipped an obelisk in AD 390 and had it set up in his hippodrome, where it has weathered Crusaders and Seljuks and stands in the Hippodrome square in modern Istanbul. This one stood 95 feet tall, weighing 380 tons. Its lower half reputedly also once stood in Istanbul but is now lost. The Istanbul obelisk is 65 feet tall.
Rome is the obelisk capital of the world. The most prominent is the 25.5 m/83.6 ft high 331 ton obelisk at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. The obelisk had stood since AD 37 on its site 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.”
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 April 30 to May 17, 1586 to move it on rollers to the Piazza: it required nearly 1000 men, 140 carthorses, 47 cranes. The re-erection, scheduled for September 14, 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), which itself set a new standard in communicating technical information and influenced subsequent architectural publications by its meticulous precision. 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.
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, 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.
Several more Egyptian obelisks have been re-erected elsewhere. The best-known examples outside Rome are the pair of 21 m/68 ft Cleopatra’s Needles in London(69 feet 187 tons) and New York City(70 feet 193 tons) and the 23 m/75 ft 227 ton obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
THE OBELISK: A SYMBOL OF OSIRIS
(Egyptian God of the Underworld)
Unrecognized by the vast majority of peoples around the world is the greatest conspiracy of all time, sitting right out in the open in Washington DC and at the Vatican. It is an ancient, magical, talismanic diagram—the Lost Symbol—based on the history and cult of Isis, Osiris, Horus, and the prophecy of the deity’s return.
The primeval concept was designed in antiquity for the express purpose of regeneration, resurrection, and apotheosis, for deity incarnation from the underworld to earth’s surface through union of the respective figures—the Dome (ancient structural representation of the womb of Isis) and the Obelisk (ancient representation of the erect male phallus of Osiris)…
In ancient times, the Obelisk represented the god Osiris’ “missing” male organ, which Isis was not able to find after her husband/brother was slain and chopped into fourteen pieces by Seth. Isis replaced the missing organ with an Obelisk and magically impregnated herself with Horus, the resurrected Osiris. This legend formed the core of Egyptian cosmology and was fantastically venerated on the most imposing scale throughout all of Egypt by towering Obelisks, including at Karnak where the upright Obelisks (of Osiris) were “vitalized” or “stimulated” from the energy of the masturbatory Sun god Ra shining down upon them. Modern people, especially in America, may view these symbols as profane or pornographic, but they were in fact ritualized objects the ancients believed could produce tangible reactions, properties, or “manifestations” within the material world. The Obelisk and Dome as imitations of the deities’ male and female reproductive organs could, through government representation, invoke into existence the being or beings symbolized by them. This is why inside the temple or Dome, temple prostitutes representing the human manifestation of the goddess were also available for ritual sex as a form of imitative magic…
The Egyptian Trinity of Gods
Through such imitative sex, the Dome and Obelisk became “energy receivers” capable of assimilating Ra’s essence from the rays of the sun, which in turn drew forth the “seed” of the underworld Osiris. The seed of the dead deity would, according to the supernaturalism, transmit upward from out of the underworld through the base (testes) of the Obelisk and magically ejaculate from the tower’s head into the womb (Dome) of Isis. In this way, Osiris could be “born again” or reincarnated as Horus over and over….
In Washington, the Obelisk built by Freemasons and dedicated to America’s first president stands near the west end of the National Mall. It is the tallest Obelisk of its kind in the world, at 6,660 inches high (555 feet) and 666 inches wide (55.5 feet) along each side at the base….
In Egypt, where raising Osiris to life through these magical constructs was perfected, Pharaoh served as the “fit extension” for the reborn god to take residence in as the “sex act” was ritualized at the site of the largest religious structure ever built—the temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak where Pharaoh became the receptacle of the spirit of Osiris during the festival of Opet. The festival was held at the temple of Luxor, where the Pharaoh entered the holy womb-temple beyond the Obelisk and was transmogrified into the living deity, the son of Amun-Ra and Osiris. From then forward, Pharaoh was considered the incarnation of the god Horus (resurrected Osiris) during his lifetime, and in death experienced apotheosis again, becoming Osiris in the underworld, the dying and resurrecting god, a cycle repeated with every newly appointed king.
Thus Pharaoh was—just as the god ciphered on the Great Seal of the United States will be—the son and spiritual incarnation of the Supreme Deity.