Montecitorio Obelisk Rome

The present Montecitorio Obelisk was brought to Rome in the year 10 BC, together with another obelisk now known as the Flaminio Obelisk. Another name for the monument is Obelisco Solare, since its original function was that of sundial for the meridian in the present Piazza del Parlamento.

Montecitorio Obelisk Rome

Earliest history

The obelisk in the Piazza di Montecitorio in Rome is of Egyptian origin and was made by Pharaoh Psammetico II. Emperor Augustus had the monument transported to the Eternal City. The obelisk was originally located in Heliopolis, in those days one of the most important cities of Egypt, but now no more than part of a suburb of Cairo.

The emperor placed the monument in what was then the Campo Marzio district, in order to serve as a sundial for the enormous meridian north of the Piazza del Parlamento.

Lost and found

Montecitorio Obelisk Rome
Montecitorio Obelisk

Towards the 11th century the ground shifted as a result of either floodings or earthquakes. This made the obelisk tilt so that it became unable to fulfill its function. It became covered with earth and virtually forgotten, not to be found until several centuries had passed.

In 1748 the architect Antonio Zabaglia got the task to restore the obelisk, which had broken into five pieces. The restoration had been ordered by Pope Benedict XIV.

The restoration took a long time and was finally completed in 1792 by Giovanni Antinori, who also placed it in its present location. Antinori used red granite parts of the Column of Antoninus Pius for the restoration. The pedestal of this column is on display in the Vatican Museums.

The globe on top of the obelisk is a memorial sign for its former function. Every day, exactly at 12 noon, a sunbeam strikes the earth through a hole in this globe.

The height of the Montecitorio Obelisk is almost 22m, but with its base it reaches more than 33m. The pedestal contains an inscription with a dedication to emperor Augustus.

Of the inscriptions on the obelisk, only very few are still legible. The ones that can still be deciphered include a list of the Pharaoh’s names and an interpretation of natural phenomena according to the Egyptians’ philosophy.

The pavement below the obelisk was decorated with mosaics showing the signs of the zodiac, the winds and a sundial. After a first restoration in 1965, in 1998 the entire square got a new layout. The signs of the zodiac and the sundials were recreated.

Piazza di Monte Citorio – Rome

Piazza della Rotonda Rome

The Piazza della Rotonda is the official name of the square that faces the Pantheon, so most people know it by the name Piazza del Pantheon. It is one of Rome‘s liveliest squares, with a jumble of open-air café tables and a picturesque central fountain. The alleys leading up to the square are lined with tourist shops, wine bars, restaurants and small cafés.

Piazza della Rotonda Rome

Piazza della Rotonda in Rome
Piazza della Rotonda

Apart from the Pantheon itself, the most distinguishing landmark on the Piazza della Rotonda is the obelisk on top of the fountain right in its center. Like the Minerva obelisk its original location was the temple of Isis. The hieroglyphics place its origin during the reign of Ramses II.

The obelisk was placed in front of the Pantheon in 1711 and Pope Clement XI commissioned its decorative dolphins and coats of arms.

There is a plaque on the building across from the Pantheon claiming that the papal authorities saved the square from the hands of brothels and inn-keepers.

The plaque on the building housing the Hotel del Sole, one of the most famous hotels in Rome, says that the poet Torquato Tasso used to live there.

The Piazza della Rotonda is a perfect spot to just sit and have a coffee. Do not be surprised though if that coffee costs 8 times as much as everywhere else.

Originally there were 4 fountains on the Piazza della Rotonda. Three of these are now kept in municipal warehouses, while the fourth one stands in the Viale Goethe in the Villa Borghese park and is known as the Fountain of the Winged Victories.

Piazza della Rotonda – Rome

San Lorenzo in Lucina Church Rome

The San Lorenzo in Lucina Basilica is a church in the Colonna district of Rome. It is one of the oldest Christian churches in the city and contains works of art by o.a. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo and Guido Reni. Continue reading “San Lorenzo in Lucina Church Rome”

Fountain of the Pantheon Rome

The Fountain of the Pantheon in Rome is located right in the middle of the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon itself.

Fountain of the Pantheon Rome

History and description

Fountain of the Pantheon Rome
Fountain of the Pantheon

The fountain was commissioned in 1575 by Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, designed by Giacomo della Porta and sculpted by Leonardo Sormani. The water for the fountain comes from the old Acqua Vergine Aqueduct.

There is a marble shell on a balustrade in the middle of the tub. The shell is decorated with four sculpture groups of masks and dolphins. These were originally created for the southern fountain in the Piazza Navona.

The present version of the fountain was commissioned by Pope Clemens II Albani and designed by Filippo Barigioni. The artist used Bernini‘s Fountain of the Four Rivers as an inspiration for his design. He got rid of the balustrade and created a marble cliff with a dolphin on every corner.

Piazza della Rotonda without the Fountain of the Pantheon Rome.
A 15th century drawing shows that there was no fountain in the Piazza della Rotonda yet.

The obelisk of Ramses II was not added until much later, in 1711, when Pope Clemente XI Albani ordered Filippo Barignoni to reconstruct the fountain, by adding a rock instead of the basin and decorating the base with four dolphins by the hand of the sculptor Luigi Amici.

Like the obelisk on Bernini’s Elephant, this Macuteo Obelisk also originally stood on the Iseo Campense. This was a temple for the Egyptian Gods Isis and Serapis, built by Domitian. Until the 14th century this temple was located in front of the San Macuto Church. Domitian himself had transported this obelisk, which was made during the reign of Ramses II, from Egypt to Rome. Two more obelisks that used to decorate the Iseo Campense were the Dogali Obelisk and the obelisk in the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

The coats-of-arms adorning the north and south sides of the fountain are those of the Albani family and of the Pope. The bronze star on top of the obelisk is another symbol of the Albani family.

Towards the end of the 20th century the original masks were replaced by copies. The originals, one of which stems from the 17th and the other ones from the 15th century, are on display in the Museo di Roma.

The total height of the obelisk is 14,52 meters.

Address and public transport

The fountain of the Pantheon is located in the Piazza della Rotonda. The nearest bus stop is Argentina (30, 40, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87, 130F, 190F, 492, 628, 916, 916F, N5, N6, N7, N15, N20, SHOP1).

Piazza della Rotonda – Rome

Via Sistina Rome

The Via Sistina is a street in the center of Rome, connecting the Piazza Trinità dei Monti to the Piazza Barberini. The part closest to the Piazza Barberini belongs to the rione Colonna, whereas the part closer to Trinità dei Monti belongs to the rione Campo Marzio.

Via Sistina Rome

The street is named for Pope Sixtus V, who had ordered it to be built towards the end of the 16th century.

The architect was Domenico Fontana and initially the street was much longer (2km), since the intention was to connect the Pincio hill to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

At the time the Via Sistina was called the Via Felice, since the Pope’s real name was Felice Peretti.

In the 18th century the Via Felice was split up into shorter streets: Starting from Saint Mary Major the street is called Via de Pretis, then it turns into the Via delle Quattro Fontane and finally into the Via Sistina.

There are a number of interesting palazzi along the Via Sistina: the Palazzetto Stroganoff, the Palazzo Perucchi and the Palazzo Dotti are amongst the more noteworthy ones.

On the Trinità dei Monti side the nearest metro stop is Spagna, on the other side it is Barberini (both on line A).

Via Sistina – Rome

Museo Missionario di Propaganda Fide Rome

The Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, a 17th century Baroque architectural masterpiece in Rome designed by Bernini (Gianlorenzo) and Francesco Borromini, has opened its doors to the public in the form of a museum, called the Museo Missionario di Propaganda Fide. Continue reading “Museo Missionario di Propaganda Fide Rome”

Oratorio del Caravita Church Rome

The Oratorio del Caravita is located just off the Via del Corso in the historical center of Rome. It used to also be called the Oratorio della Santissima Comunione Generale (“Oratorium of the Holy General Communion”). Continue reading “Oratorio del Caravita Church Rome”