Rome, Basilique Saint-Pierre

Témoignage de John Evelyn (1644)

Next is the obe­lisk trans­por­ted out of Egypt, and dedi­ca­ted by Octa­vius Augus­tus to Julius Cæsar, whose ashes it for­mer­ly bore on the sum­mit ; but, being since over­tur­ned by the bar­ba­rians, was re-erec­ted with vast cost and a most stu­pen­dous inven­tion by Dome­ni­co Fon­ta­na, archi­tect to Sex­tus V. The obe­lisk consists of one entire square stone without hie­ro­gly­phics, in height seven­ty-two feet, but com­pre­hen­ding the base and all it is 108 feet high, and res­ts on four Lions of gil­ded cop­per, so as you may see through the base of the obe­lisk and plinth of the pedes­tal.

Upon two faces of the obe­lisk is engra­ven

DIVO CAES. DIVI
IVLII F. AVGVSTO
TI. CAES. DIVI AUG.
F. AVGVS. SACRVM.

It now bears on the top a cross in which it is said that Sex­tus V. inclo­sed some of the holy wood ; and under it is to be read by good eyes :

SANCTISSIMAE CRVCI
SEXTVS V. PONT. MAX.
CONSECRAVIT.
E. PRIORE SEDE AVVLSVM
ET CAESS. AVG. AC TIB.
I. L. ABLATUM M.D.LXXXVI.

On the four faces of the base below :

I. CHRISTVS VINCIT.
CHRISTVS REGNAT.
CHRISTVS IMPERAT.
CHRISTVU AB OMNI MALO
PLEBEM SVAM DEFENDAT.

SEXTVS V. PONT. MAX.,
OBELISCVM VATICANVM DIIS GENTIVM
IMPIO CVLTV DICATVM
AD APOSTOLORVM LIMINA
OPEROSO LABORE TRANSTVLIT
AN. M.D.LXXXVI. PONT. II.

3. ECCE CRVX DOMINI
FVGITE PARTES
ADVERSAE
VINCIT LEO
DE TRIBV IVDA.

4. SEXTVS V. PONT. MAX.
CRVCI INVICTAE
OBELISCVM VATICANVM
AB IMPIA SVPERSTITIONE
EXPIATVM IVSTIVS
ET FELICITVS CONSECRAVIT
AN. M.D.L.XXXVI. PONT. II.

A lit­tle lower :

DOMINICVS FONTANA EX PAGO MILIAGRI NOVOCOMENSIS TRANSTVLIT
ET EREXIT1.

It is repor­ted to have taken a year in erec­ting, to have cost 37,975 crowns, the labour of 907 men, and 75 horses : this being the first of the four Egyp­tian obe­lisks set up at Rome, and one of the for­ty-two brought to the city out of Egypt, set up in seve­ral places, but thrown down by the Goths, Bar­ba­rians, and ear­th­quakes.2 Some coaches stood before the steps of the ascent, whe­reof one, belon­ging to Car­di­nal Medi­ci, had all the metal work of mas­sy sil­ver, viz. the bow behind and other places.

1In 1589, this dis­tin­gui­shed archi­tect publi­shed a folio volume, with engra­vings, des­crip­tive of the man­ner of remo­ving and re-erec­ting this famous monu­ment of anti­qui­ty, entit­led Del modo tenu­to nel tra­spor­tare l’Obelisco Vati­ca­no ; with his por­trait in the title-page, hol­ding a model of this column.
2See Pla­ti­na in Vita Pon­tiff, p. 315.
(The dia­ry of John Eve­lyn, Ed. William Bray, J.M. DENT et E.P DULTON, Lon­don-New York, 1905, Tome I, p.119–120.)