Italy 3300BC-1200BC-Bronze Age Europe Archaeological sites, ancient temples

The Vatican Obelisk: A 4000-Year-Old Testimony

Vatican Obelisk in St. Peter's Square, Vatican, Rome - 4000 years old
Vatican Obelisk, Saint Peter's Square
The Vatican Obelisk, a monumental witness of time, shines in St. Peter's Square, rising like a beacon of history and spirituality, raising its grace against the sky with an ancestral story and Latin inscriptions that endure into eternity.

Tourist Information

Year1835 BC
TypeEgyptian Obelisk
Getting thereCar, plane, train
Made byAccording to some documents it was constructed during the time of King Nuncores of Egypt 
When to visitAnytime
Getting thereTrain
Nearest train station: Roma San Pietro
Nearest station: Line A, Ottaviano-S
Bus lines 64, N904 and 916
TicketsSt Peter’s Square – free entry but long queues to security check.
You can rent audio guides after the security check.
Location Vatican, Rome, Italy, Europe


Why is the Obelisk in St. Peter’s Square famous?

The obelisk in St. Peter’s Square has a fascinating history and an ancient origin. It was originally carved during the reign of the Egyptian king Nuncores in 1835 BC in the ancient city of Heliopolis in Egypt in honor of the Sun. This is an authentic Egyptian obelisk and was originally placed in the temple of the goddess Amun at Karnak, near Luxor.

The obelisk in St. Peter’s Square is a focal point of the square and an iconic symbol of the Vatican.

How was the Obelisk transported?

The bringing and placement of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square was coordinated by Emperor Caligula, Pope Sixtus V, and the engineer Domenico Fontana in the 16th century.

Ingenious techniques for the time, including cranes and cables, were used to transport and erect the massive obelisk. The operation was very complex, and the obelisk was raised vertically and placed on a special base.

It was originally placed in Nero’s Circus, south of St. Peter’s Basilica, near the Sacristy.

What is the Vatican Obelisk made of and what symbols does it have?

The obelisk is made of pink granite and has ancient Egyptian inscriptions and decorations on it that contain references to the pharaoh Amenhotep III and the goddess Amon.

It was carved from a single block of stone and has a height of 25.31m.

It is the second tallest obelisk in Rome, after the one in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

At the base of the obelisk, at the bottom, there is a plaque with a Christian inscription celebrating the restoration and placement of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square during the pontificate of Sixtus V. This includes Christian symbols such as crosses.

The Vatican Obelisk, also known as the “Vatican Obelisk”, contains Latin inscriptions and symbols on a bronze plate at the bottom of the obelisk. This plaque was added during restoration work in the 16th century during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V.

The Latin inscription on the bronze plate contains the following words:


“Christ conquers Christ reigns Christ commands Christ to defend his people from all evil Sublime is the glory of Christ”

What events did the Obelisk witness?

The obelisk was a “silent witness” of the martyrdom of Saint Peter and other Christians.

Saint Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus and one of the most important Christian saints, was crucified upside down near this place during the reign of Emperor Nero, around 64 AD. According to Christian tradition, he felt that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus, and therefore asked to be crucified in reverse.

Is the Vatican obelisk a sundial?

The obelisk is also a sundial, its shadow marking the zodiac signs drawn on the stones around it.

What legends and mysteries does this Obelisk have?

Pagan solar symbol

For pagans, the obelisk is a solar symbol, a representation of the energy flowing between Earth and Heaven, and a way to communicate with the deities.

The shape of the tall and slender obelisk is reminiscent of a beam of sunlight. Throughout its history, the obelisk was an important symbol of solar worship and the power of the gods in Egyptian mythology. It was placed in temples to honor the gods and to reflect the importance of the Sun in the life and belief of the ancient Egyptians.

As a pagan symbol in the most important square of Christendom, it represents humanity that has found Christ.

Fragment of the Holy Cross

At the top of the obelisk is a bronze cross which is said to have inserted a fragment of the Cross of Jesus.

The ashes of Julius Caesar

During the Medieval Era at the top of the obelisk was a metal bowl said to be filled with the ashes of Julius Caesar.

The symbol of the obelisk

When we talk about the Egyptian obelisk we are not talking about one obelisk but about many obelisks scattered around the world. The meaning of the obelisk is much disputed. Some say it represents masculinity, others say it is a sundial, and others say it is the symbol of Osiris. We may never know, but it is worth traveling around the world to discover the beautiful Egyptian obelisks.

The legend of the connection between solar eclipses and the Vatican Obelisk

An interesting aspect is the legend that the obelisk emits a mysterious sound during solar eclipses. This fueled speculation and myths about the obelisk’s magical powers.

This belief may be related to the fact that the obelisk was originally dedicated to the Sun god Amun-Ra in ancient Egypt. Throughout history, obelisks were often associated with Sun worship and played a role in the calculation of the Egyptian calendar and astronomical events, including solar eclipses.