Moving obelisks

Published

Journal Article

Henry Petroski discusses how the 13th-century B.C., 83-foot-tall, 360-ton monolith now known as the Vatican Obelisk was moved from Heliopolis to Rome 14 centuries later and erected there under orders of the emperor Caligula. Fontana documented the project, which took a good year to accomplish and was completed in 1586, in his wonderfully illustrated book, Della Transportatione dell'Obelisco Vaticano, which was published in 1590. First, the obelisk had to be lifted off its old resting place, which required the construction of a wooden derrick-like scaffold and the mechanical advantage of four 50-foot-long levers, lots of strong rope and pulley blocks. The Paris Cleopatra, which stands approximately 75 feet tall and weighs about 250 tons, is the tallest and heaviest of the three needles. It was presented as a gift to France in 1826 and was erected there in 1833, but without its pyramidion intact.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Petroski, H

Published Date

  • November 1, 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 99 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 448 - 452

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0996

Citation Source

  • Scopus