Route: EGYPT THE EMPIRE THE POPES. THE CITY OF OBELISKS
Piazza Montecitorio Always visible. The red granite…
You are along the route: THE FASCINATION OF THE CLASSICS. GOETHE AND CANOVA
On 3 September 1787, Goethe noted his passion for Egyptian antiquities and tells how he had gone several times to examine the ancient obelisk which at the time was near Piazza Montecitorio. This is the obelisk which the Emperor Augustus has transported to Rome for it to be raised in Campo Marzio as the gnomon of a large sundial: I am dealing with Egyptian matters again. I have been several times to see the great obelisk, which is still lying in pieces in a courtyard with other ruins. It was the obelisk of Senusret, raised in Rome in honour of Augustus and which was also used as an index for the large sundial drawn on the Field of Mars. This is the most ancient and beautiful of many monuments and lays in fragments, with many pieces damaged, I believe by fire. Despite this, the undamaged parts preserve an extraordinary freshness of work. I have ordered that a sphinx, some human faces and those of other sphinxes and birds be made for me from them. These treasures need to be possessed, so much so that I have heard it said that the Pope intends to have it put together and raised again, and it will then be impossible to get near these figures again. Goethe was right: in 1793. Pope Pius VI had it restored and raised again at the centre of the square it still dominates.
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