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Obelisco cavato di sotto le ruine (Book 2) (Day 4) (Rione Colonna)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 The Obelisk now

The Plate (No. 21 - ii)

Obelisco cavato di sotto le ruine

Vasi published his second book in 1752 and he included in it an extra plate dedicated to the excavation in 1748 of an obelisk brought to Rome by Augustus. The existence of the obelisk had been known since the end of the XVIth century, but it was split into several pieces which lay below some buildings and thus its recovery was difficult and expensive. Eventually Benedictus XIV (who was Pope at the time the book was published) succeeded in recovering it.


The view today

A plate in what is today Piazza del Parlamento tells the whole history of the obelisk which was originally erected by Psammetichus II in the 7th century BC and then brought to Rome by Augustus who placed it as a sundial in a vast square (Horologium Divi Augusti) where its shadow indicated the hours of the day and the days of the year (that perhaps explains how it was thought of using the obelisk in St. Peter's square for the same purpose).

The past

The butterfly shaped area where the Horologium was located is now between Piazza S. Lorenzo in Lucina (North) and Piazza del Parlamento (South).

The Obelisk now

The Obelisk

Pius VI in 1789 moved the obelisk to Piazza di Montecitorio where it was put on top of what remained of a column erected by Antoninus Pius. As usual the Pope crowned the obelisk with a symbol of his coat of arms, but he added a peak as a reminder of its use as sundial (to see all the obelisks of Rome click here).

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Obelisco di Augusto nel Campo Marzio
In cinque pezzi, e 14. palmi sotto terra fu disotterrato quell'insigne, e smisurato trofeo della Romana potenza l'an. 1478. come si vede riposto nel cortile del vicino palazzo, che dicesi della Vignaccia. E' questo di granito rosso con cifre, o simboli egizj, fatto dal Re Sesostri, e fu condotto a Roma da Ottaviano Augusto dopo aver conquistato l'Egitto, il quale poi lo pose nel campo Marzio, per dimorare colla sua ombra le ore, o la meridiana al popolo Romano, che ivi concorreva a celebrare le feste, e giuochi ne' tempi destinati.

Next plate in Book 2: Piazza Colonna
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Chiesa dell'Immacolata Concezione in Campo Marzio
Next step in your tour of Rione Colonna: Palazzo di Fiano

Go to    or to  Book 2 or to my Home Page on Baroque Rome or to my Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller.

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