"Obelisk" Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano Tip by jungles

Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome: 60 reviews and 142 photos

  San Giovanni obelisk
by jungles

Obelisks are ancient Egyptian monuments which were carved out of granite and usually placed in front of temples as they were used to worship the sun god Ra. The tip of the obelisk would have been covered in gold, reflecting the light of the sun. When the Romans took control of Egypt, they carted some of these obelisks back to Rome, by some accounts as many as fifty of them. This was meant to symbolise Rome's dominion over Egypt. After the fall of the Roman Empire most of the obelisks lay broken and buried under rubble, until the Renaissance when popes started to dig them up and erect them around town once more, only this time they stood them in front of churches and stuck crosses on the tops of them, thus symbolising Christianity's victory over the pagan religions of the past.

Nowadays there are thirteen obelisks standing in Rome, and only four standing in Egypt. The one in front of San Giovanni in Laterano is the tallest in Rome at 32.18 metres, and it's also the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. Originally it stood in the temple of Amun in Karnak, Egypt. In the 4th century A.D. it was brought to Rome and placed in the middle of the Circus Maximus, the ancient chariot-racing stadium. In 1587 it was found in three pieces, was put back together (though with 4 metres missing from its original height) and placed in front of the Lateran Palace, replacing the statue of Marcus Aurelius which had been moved to the Campidoglio.

Phone: +39 06 6988 6433
Website: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_giovanni/index_it.htm

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jun 7, 2006
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