Luxor Obelisk

Luxor Obelisk, Paris, public art

Public Art : Luxor Obelisk (or if you want to say it in French, Obélisque de Louxor)

Architect : Unknown (probably some poor slaves!)

Description : A 3,300 year old , red granite, 250 metric ton, 23 metres (75 ft) high Egyptian obelisk. The tall structure is decorated with hieroglyphics from the time of the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II & Ramses III. On either side of the obelisk are fountains constructed during the time the structure was placed at the Place de la Concorde in 1836.

Unveiled : The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833 then  three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe of France had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde.

Location : The Luxor Obelisk is one of two obelisks which once stood proudly outside the entrance to the Luxor Temple, in Egypt . Today one of them  can be found standing in the center of the Place de la Concorde , the largest square in Paris, France.

Clock tower, Egypt, CitadelHistory of the Egyptian Obelisks : The obelisk found its way to Paris thanks to the efforts of Jean Baptiste Apollinaire Lebas who brokered a deal that saw the structure  presented as a gift to King Charles X by the Egyptian viceroy Méhémet Ali. In return Egypt was given a large clock which still resides in the clock tower of the mosque of the Citadel of Cairo.

It took five years from July 1831 to October 1836 to remove and re-erect the Luxor obelisk.

The obelisk once had a pyramidion on the top but historians believed it was stolen sometime in the 6th century. Despite a promise by the French to restore this when it was placed in the square it was only in 1997 that the then French President Jacques Chirac followed through with it. The pyramidion is made of bronze and gold leaf and was added in the May of 1998 as part of the celebrations to mark Franco-Egyptian relations and adds another 3metres to the structure.

Controversial Past : The Obelisk was plonked in the center of what was once one of the most bloodiest places in Paris. Originally there was a statue of Louis XV on horseback adorning the square but this was destroyed during the Revolution and replaced with a guillotine. The guillotine being the tool of choice for public executions. Among the famous heads to roll during this time were Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, Danton and Robespierre.All in all over 1,300 people were beheaded between 1793 and 1795.

Trivia :

One legend claims Josephine told Napoleon before he left to  conquest of  Egypt  in 1798 " If you go to Thebes, do send me a small obelisk "

One inscription on the obelisk reads in translation  “The Lord of the world, Sun, guardian of truth, approved by Phra, has caused this edifice to be built in honour of his father, Amun-Ra; and has also erected these two great Obelisks of granite before the Ramseseion of the city of Amun.”

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