The term obelisk comes from the Latin (obelsicus) and can be translated as a pointed column or spit. This already refers to the architectural form of these pillars, usually made of stones. Obelisks are therefore freestanding, tapering stelae with a pyramidal tip.
These buildings were first erected in ancient Egypt, where they symbolized the stony rays of the sun god Re, and so the obelisks can be found above all the temple of the deity, often with a gilded top. The shadow cast by the obelisk in its orbit resembles, like a sun-dial, the daily journey of the Re on its solar bark from east to west. For the ancient Egyptians, this continuous repetitive circulation was considered a symbol of the world and legal order.
In Aswan, you can even find an unfinished obelisk weighing 1100 tons. The largest obelisk was built and erected by the Pharaoh Hatshepsut near the city of Luxor in the Amun Temple, where it rises to a height of 32 meters to the sky.
As a building material, especially for Egyptian architecture typically red Assuangranit was processed, which was broken down in the granite quarries southeast of Aswan. For this purpose, a rock block already processed on site in the required size, also called monolith, was carved in coarse form and then transported across the Nile as the desired location. From the port, many hundreds of workers moved the stone abbey with the help of runners for up to 1500 kilometers. Using leverage techniques, the obelisk could finally be set up. Over time, the pointed columns arrived at the destination arrived still inscriptions that had to be incorporated according to fixed rules.
Only after the downfall of Ancient Egypt and the consequent loss of its original religious significance were the obelisks made of other materials such as various natural stones or even metal.
Later Roman emperors brought a total of 13 obelisks from Egypt to Rome, but some were destroyed during the early Middle Ages because they were of "pagan" origin. More original Egyptian obelisks can now be rediscovered all over the world: in Heliopolis, Cairo, Istanbul, Paris (the so-called Obelisk of Luxor), London (St. George's Circus), New York (Central Park), Wimborne Minster (Kingston Lacy ), Urbino, Florence, Munich, Catania and Caesarea Maritima.
Even in modern times, obelisks are still being made, but unlike the Egyptian original, these are rarely made in one piece but are usually composed of several stones and then bricked.
Known obelisks of the modern era are those erected in 1775 by margrave Carl Friedrich von Baden in Linkenheim or a model made of bluestone, standing in Aachen, after the design of Capitaine Boucher from 1807, which is to commemorate the surveyor Jean Joseph Tranchot.
The so-called Washington Monument with a height of 169.3 meters, erected in 1884, which made it the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Incidentally, even in pop culture, there are references to the pebble-like stone pillars, because the famous cartoon character Obelix owes its name to the monumental appearance of the obelisk.