The cityscape of Rome is characterized by numerous obelisks. They have a strong decorative effect, but the meaning behind these monuments dates back to the ecclesiastical influence of centuries past and is supposed to demonstrate the power of the church and the glory of the popes—a connection between our world and the world of the gods. It’s said that the higher the obelisk, the closer it is to god.
The Vatican Egyptian Obelisk, often simply called the Vatican Obelisk, is situated in the middle of St Peter’s Square and, standing 84 feet (25.5 meters) high, it’s the second-largest of the 13 remaining obelisks in Rome. It has survived two millennia of world history and was brought from Heliopolis to Rome on the order of Caligula in 37 A.D. as a demonstration of power. In ancient times, it was located in the center of the Circus of Nero, but was moved in 1586 to the famous St Peter’s Square, which was built around it later on.
The obelisk draws the eye immediately, standing strong in the middle the piazza. It has done so for 2,000 years, as it is the only obelisk that hasn’t toppled since Roman times. According to legend, a metal globe on the top was supposed to hold the ashes of Julius Caesar and a relic from the cross from Jesus himself. The former was proven false, but the second claim? Nobody knows.
The Egyptian Obelisk lies smack in the middle of St Peter’s Square, one of the most important plazas in Rome. To get to the obelisk, take the Metro line A to the Ottaviano San Pietro stop, from where it is just a five-minute walk down the Via Ottaviano. The best view can be had near the fountains.