Rome, more than any other city, is full of obelisks, many of Egyptian origin. These enormous monoliths, either bare or covered in hieroglyphics, form focus points at the center of the great squares; but they are also symbols of the sun and immortality. There are thirteen obelisks in Rome.
The most ancient and the highest ( 31 meters of red granite ) is perhaps the Obelisk in Piazza S.Giovonni in Laterano that goes back to the 15th century BC. It was brought to Rome in 357 AD and erected here in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V, who had a fondness for these monuments. To him, we owe the erection of the most celebrated Roman obelisk, that of St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican’s monolith made of red granite is 25,37 meters high and devoid of hieroglyphics. It was brought to Rome by Caligula and in 1586 Pope Sixtus V had placed it in front of the Basilica. It is said that the transporting was very difficult and required hundreds of horses and men. A year later, the same Sixtus V had another obelisk placed on the Esquiline Hill, it is a bare 14,75 meters high and without hieroglyphics.
The fourth Obelisk of Sixtus V is splendid and placed in the famous Piazza del Popolo. It is almost 24 meters high and has hieroglyphics from 1300 BC, it was brought to Rome at the time of Augustus in celebration of the victory over Egypt. It was then Bernini’s turn to erect another two obelisks: the one in Piazza Navona ( almost 17 meters high and rich in hieroglyphics ) and that in Piazza Minerva, almost 5,47 meters high and supported by a small elephant ( designed by Bernini ).
In front of the Pantheon is another obelisk, called Macuteo, only six meters high and dating from the time of Ramses II. Dating from the end of the 18th century is the Obelisk of the Quirinale ( placed in 1786 it is 16.63 meters high and made of red granite ) and from the same epoch the Obelisk on the Trinita dei Monti.