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Egyptian Obelisk – St. Peter’s Square

Image by HuTDoG83
Vibrant Rome – Photo 1 of 6

The Ancient Romans have been strongly influenced by the obelisk form, to the extent that there are now far more than twice as many obelisks standing in Rome as stay in Egypt. All fell soon after the Roman period except for the Vatican obelisk and were re-erected in distinct areas.

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 but to be built. He had a complete-sized wooden mock-up erected inside months of his election. Domenico Fontana, the assistant of Giacomo Della Porta in the Basilica’s building, presented the Pope with a tiny model crane of wood and a heavy tiny obelisk of lead, which Sixtus himself was in a position to raise by turning a little winch with his finger. Fontana was provided 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 Might 17, 1586 to move it on rollers to the Piazza: it needed nearly 1000 males, 140 carthorses, 47 cranes. The re-erection, scheduled for September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, was watched by a big crowd. It was a well-known feat of engineering, which created 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),[ten][11] which itself set a new regular in communicating technical details and influenced subsequent architectural publications by its meticulous precision.[12] Before getting re-erected the obelisk was exorcised. It is stated 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 place the slightest kink in its axis, to line it precisely with the obelisk.

Source: Wikipedia


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