Ancient Roman Obelisks Modern Obelisks

Axumite obelisks

King Ezana's Stele in Axum.A number of obelisks were carved in the ancient Axumite Kingdom of Ethiopia. The most notable example – the 24 m high Obelisk of Axum carved around the 4th century AD – was looted by the Italians after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and taken to Rome in 1937 where it stood in the Piazza di Porta Capena. Italy agreed in a 1947 UN agreement to return the obelisk but didn't first truly affirm its agreement until 1997, after years of pressure. In 2003 the Italian government made the first steps toward its return, and as of 2006 it is in Axum still awaiting re-erection due to the finding of older burial chambers on the intended site.
The largest obelisk, now fallen, at 33 m high and 3 by 2 meters at the base is the largest single piece of stone ever worked in human history and probably fell during erection or soon after, destroying a large part of the massive burial chamber underneath it. The obelisks, properly termed stelae or the native hawilt or hawilti as they don't end in a pyramid, were used to mark graves and underground burial chambers. The largest of the grave markers were for royal burial chambers and were decorated with multi-story false windows and false doors, while nobility would have smaller less decorated ones. While there are only a few large ones standing, there are hundreds of smaller ones in various "stelae fields". The obelisks were kept standing through the use of massive counterweights.

Ancient Roman obelisks

The Romans commissioned obelisks in an Egyptian style.

Arles, France — in Place de la République, a 4th century obelisk of Roman origin Rome — there are five known ancient Roman obelisks located in Rome. See Obelisks in Rome.

Modern obelisks

Starting in the Renaissance, the obelisk has become a staple of monumental architecture, especially funerary, mainly for freemasons. Some claimed experts in architecture and psychology say they are phallic representations of manhood and an individual's standing or influence in or on a community. Also, occult symbology is invoked when placed in a circle of 8 wedges and or when a monolith or obelisk is fashioned from "black" marble, it becomes a symbol of fertility or copulation. Many thousands of modern obelisks can be found the world over, almost any American cemetery offering several examples. Among all these, the following are worthy of particular mention:
  • The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., USA
  • The Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park, Dublin
  • A Socialist obelisk. The Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw. Built 1952-1955.
  • Obelisk, Buenos Aires.Rumyantsev Obelisk in St Petersburg, 1799.
  • Stowe School, Buckinghamshire – General Wolfe's Obelisk, 1754.
  • Kagul Obelisk in Tsarskoe Selo, 1772.
  • Chesma Obelisk in Gatchina, 1775
  • Villa Medici, Rome – a 19th century copy of the Egyptian obelisk moved to the Boboli Gardens in Florence in 1790.
  • Villa Torlonia, Rome – two obelisks erected 1842.
  • Patriots' Grave, Old Burying Ground, Arlington, Massachusetts (1818)
  • Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, Massachusetts – built between 1827 and 1843, the first monumental public obelisk erected in the United States.
  • The Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont.
  • Dalhousie Obelisk, in Raffles Place, Singapore, 1891.
  • The San Jacinto Monument, measuring 173.7 m in height, resembles an obelisk but it has an octagonal shaft and lacks a pyramidal top.
  • The museum managing the monument considers it to be a column instead of an obelisk. It commemorates the acquisition of Texas and other states from Mexico following the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.
  • The Washington Monument in Washington DC, USA, measuring 169.29 m in height, is the world's tallest true obelisk; completed in 1884.
  • Jefferson Davis Monument at Jefferson Davis State Historic Site in Fairview, Kentucky, 351 feet (107 m) tall, mostly of concrete, completed in 1924.
  • McKinley Monument, on Niagara Square, in Buffalo, New York, USA.
  • The William Dudley Chipley Memorial, in the Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola, Florida, dedicated in 1901
  • The Veterans' Monument obelisk, constructed primarily from river rock collected from the nearby Doe River in downtown Elizabethton, Tennessee and guarded by two short American Civil War field cannon, dedicated in 1904 to Union and Confederate veterans from Carter County, Tennessee.
  • The Chalmette Monument, in Chalmette, Louisiana, commemorating the Battle of New Orleans, dedicated in 1908
  • The Foshay Tower, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, modeled after the Washington Monument, completed in 1929.
  • Foro Italico, Rome (on Lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz), erected in 1932 to honour Mussolini.
  • Obelisk of Montevideo, Uruguay - built in 1930
  • Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina – built in 1936.
  • Obelisk of São Paulo, Brazil - built in 1954
  • Demidov Column in Barnaul, Siberia, Russia.
  • Victory Obelisk in Moscow
  • Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.
  • Abolition Park in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
  • A small obelisk stands at Trinity site, the location of the first atomic bomb explosion.
  • Rugby, North Dakota, the geographical center of North America (Mexico, USA and Canada).
  • Wellington Monument, 62m (205 foot), Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Plaza Francia obelisk at the Altamira neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela built in 1944.
  • Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, black marble, seated on 8 wedge circle with dome. Allegedly placed by Mayor Victor Ashe as a memorial to the September 11, 2001 attacks.[citation needed]
  • Pirulito da Praça Sete in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
  • Rutherford's Monument near Anwoth, Scotland erected in 1842 as a memorial to Samuel Rutherford
  • The War Memorial in London Square, Southport, Lancashire, England, erected in 1923 to a design by Grayson and Barnish. It is flanked by two colonnades each supported by Doric columns, all constructed of Portland stone.
  • The Capas National Shrine in Tarlac province in the Philippines has a 70-meter obelisk (erected in 2003) that towers above the grounds of the former concentration camp at the final stop of the Bataan Death March. This site is in memory of the 31,000 Filipino and American soldiers who died here during World War II.
  • Pond and white obelisk monument in the main square of Vigan City in the Philippines.
  • The Obelisk on One Tree Hill in Auckland, New Zealand
  • High Point Monument, Montague,NJ. A 220 foot obelisk sitting on top of New Jersey's highest point 1803 ft above sea level.


The name of the comic book figure Obélix (from the Asterix strips) is derived from the word obelisk, but originates more directly from use of the word as an alternative for the typographical punctuation symbol 'dagger', in the same way that the name of Asterix is derived from asterisk.

In the manga Yu-Gi-Oh! and the anime Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, Obelisk the Tormentor (also known as God of Obelisks) is one of the Three Divine Beasts, also known as the God Cards. The obelisk stone (rock) crosses of Kerala form another category of obelisks which perhaps were inspired by the Egyptian originals. For one thing, the Syrian Christians or St. Thomas Christians of Malabar on the west coast of India had close contacts with the Egyptian and Assyrian worlds, the original habitat of obelisks. The "Ray of the Sun" and Horus concepts are to be found in the idea of Christ and in the orientation of the churches East-West. The use of the cylinder and socket method is found extensively used in both structures. Sigmund Freud believed that the obelisk was a giant phallus.[citation needed]

In the computer game Age of Mythology an obelisk is a tower built by Egyptian Priests to provide a greater line of sight. In Newcastle, New South Wales there is an obelisk, named, appropriately enough, "The Obelisk". Led Zeppelin's 1976 album "Presence" features a miniature black obelisk on the front and back covers and in a series of "everyday life" photographs contained inside the album cover, perhaps denoting the presence of an unidentified energy or force in our everyday lives, or even Led Zeppelin's own popularity at the time.

In the RTS computer game Command and Conquer, the Br