Ephemeris for October 25 in Paris: Installation of the Luxor Obelisk on Place de la Concorde (2024)

On October 25, 1836, the Luxor Obelisk was erected in the center of the Place de la Concorde by order of King Louis-Philippe. Offered to France by the Viceroy of Egypt as a token of goodwill, the monolith arrived in Paris in 1833 after an incredible epic voyage on the waves.

On Tuesday, October 25, 1836, theObelisk was erected in the middle of the Place de la Concorde on the initiative of King Louis-Philippe, in front of more than 200,000 Parisians amassed in the square, on nearby terraces and on the lower avenue des Champs-Elysées. Given to France in 1830 by Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, as a token of friendship, this 23-metre-high, 230-tonne Egyptian jewel, made of 3300-year-old pink Aswan granite, comes from the Temple of Amun in Luxor . It reached its destination in 1833 after a two-year voyage on the waves.

Arriving in Egypt in August 1828 at the head of a Franco-Tuscan mission, Jean-François Champollion, the French Egyptologist responsible for the translation of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, fell in awe of the two obelisks at the entrance to Luxor temple. On November 24, 1828, he wrote: "An immense palace, preceded by two obelisks nearly eighty feet high, made of a single block of pink Aswan granite, exquisitely crafted, accompanied by four colossi of the same material, and about thirty feet high, as they are buried up to the chest. It's Ramses the Great all over again."

Eloquent, the Egyptologist convinced Mehemet Ali to donate to France these jewels erected during the reign of Ramses II, in the 13th century BC. The Viceroy of Egypt, who had planned to give France one of the two obelisks in Alexandria, the other having gone to the English, agreed. But the problem now arose of transporting the two monoliths, each weighing over 200 tonnes.

In 1829, Charles X, King of France at the time, commissioned the Ministry of the Navy to devise a means of transporting the obelisks to port. A ship specially designed for this delicate mission, the Luxor, was built and launched in the port of Toulon on July 26, 1830. Forty-three meters long and nine meters wide, the Luxor had to be able to navigate the Nile, cross the Mediterranean Sea, cruise the Atlantic Ocean and finally sail up the Seine under the bridges.

The Revolution of 1830, which saw Charles X replaced by his cousin Louis-Philippe d'Orléans, did not jeopardize the project, and a few months later, on November 29, 1830, Egypt officially presented France with the two Luxor obelisks as a token of good understanding and thanks for Champollion's work in deciphering hieroglyphics. The Luxor left the port of Toulon on April 15, 1831 under the command of Raymond de Verninac Saint-Maur, initially to bring back just one of the two obelisks.

It was Champollion who chose which obelisk to bring back first, "the more western one, the one on the right as you enter the palace." " The pyramidion has suffered a little, it's true, but the whole body of this obelisk is intact, and admirably preserved, whereas the obelisk on the left, as I became convinced by excavations, has suffered a great fracture towards the base", describes the Egyptologist to justify his choice.

And so began a journey across the waves that would last almost three years. Towed by the Sphinx, the Luxor arrived in Luxor on August 14, 1831 and got as close as possible to the temple by digging a 400-metre canal, enablingthe monolith to be taken aboard on December 19, 1831. However, the crew had to wait eight months on site, until the Nile flood had subsided, before being able to set sail again on August 18 of the following year.

In October 1832, a new navigation problem arose: blocked by sandbanks at the mouth of the Nile, the Luxor had to wait until January 1, 1833 before being able to set sail again. Reaching Alexandria, the barge then had to wait until April 1, 1833 and the end of the winter storms before resuming its journey. Arriving in Toulon on the night of May 10-11, 1833, theobelisk finally reached Paris on December 23 of the same year, after being towed across the Mediterranean, rounding Spain and sailing up the Seine from Rouen.

Once in France, however, a new problem arose: while the obelisk was covered with hieroglyphs recounting the victories of Ramses II, its original base was adorned with sixteen baboons standing on their hind legs, revealing their sex. This was judged indecent for the time, and it was decided to replace it with a more conventional plinth, while the original base joined the collections of the Musée du Louvre.

On Tuesday, October 25, 1836, after years of waiting, theLuxor Obelisk was finally erected in the center of the Place de la Concorde, between the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. The erection of the obelisk put an end to political polemics: originally a royal square built as a tribute to Louis XV, during the French Revolution it became an insurrectionary site where Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, Danton, Robespierre and many others were guillotined.

In the early hours of October 25, 1836, some 200,000 Parisians gathered in the square and on the surrounding terraces all the way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Engineer Apollinaire Lebas directed the perilous lifting operation, which required machines, cables and an ingenious system of counterweights. Throughout the operation, the engineer deliberately remained under the obelisk to avoid disgrace in the event of an accident. Fortunately for him, the operation was a success, and the obelisk came to rest upright a few hours later.

Discreetly observing theerection of the ob elisk from theHôtel de la Marine, so as to be able to slip away discreetly in the event of the monolith's fall and destruction, King Louis-Philippe finally appeared on the balcony of the Hôtel de la Marine in the company of the royal family, to a standingovation from the crowd. Champollion, who died in 1832, never saw the completion of his work.

  • To be read
  • History of the Place de la Concorde
  • Did you know? 3 anecdotes about the Place de la Concorde
  • Paris 2024 Summer Olympics: first pictures of the Olympic venue of the Place de la Concorde

Classified as a historic monument in 1936, the oldest monument in Paris has been topped by a bronze and gold-leaf pyramidion since 1998. The second obelisk, which was never brought back to Paris, was finally returned to Egypt in 1981 by François Mitterand, who announced that he would no longer take possession of it. For the record, in 1845 Louis-Philippe presented Egypt with a copper clock as a token of his gratitude. The clock, which now adorns the citadel in Cairo, has never worked properly, according to the Cairoites, as it was probably damaged during delivery.

Further information

Ephemeris for October 25 in Paris: Installation of the Luxor Obelisk on Place de la Concorde (2024)


What is the significance of the obelisk in Paris? ›

The obelisk was given to France by the Viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, in 1829 in recognition of the work of Jean-François Champolion for the deciphering of hieroglyphics.

What is the meaning of the Luxor obelisk? ›

It was a gesture of friendship and gratitude for the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs by Champollion. The Luxor Obelisks measure 22 meters high and weigh 220 tons each, and they were built under the reign of Pharaon Ramses II. The French King, of course, accepted the gifts.

Did France steal the Luxor obelisk? ›

Gift. In November 1830, Muhammad Ali Pasha, ruler of Ottoman Egypt, officially gave the Luxor obelisks to France.

What do you find now on the Place de la Concorde? ›

Place de la Concorde is situated at the end of the Champs-Elysées. Today it is famous for the Luxor Obelisk (a 3,300 year old Egyptian obelisk erected on the square in October 1836), the surrounding prestigious hotels, and the two monumental fountains (Fontaine des Mers and Fontaine des Fleuves).

What god does the obelisk represent? ›

In Egyptian mythology, the obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the religious reformation of Akhenaten it was said to have been a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk.

What is the obelisk at the Place de Concorde? ›

Luxor Obelisk

The centrepiece of the Place de la Concorde is an ancient Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is one of two which the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century.

What is the history of the Concorde obelisk? ›

The monument was moved to the Place de la Concorde in 1836. It was originally a gift from the Viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, to France as a sign of goodwill, with the approval of Jean-François Champollion. Two obelisks were offered, but only one was cut down and transported to France.

What are two facts about the obelisk? ›

The Egyptian obelisk was carved from a single piece of stone, usually red granite from the quarries at Aswan. It was designed to be wider at its square or rectangular base than at its pyramidal top, which was often covered with an alloy of gold and silver called electrum.

How old is the obelisk in Paris? ›

The obelisk, an Egyptian artifact originally constructed in about 1300 bce, is 74.9 feet (22.83 metres) in height. Flanking the obelisk are two fountains designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff, an architect who also supervised other…

Did France steal the obelisk from Egypt? ›

Napoleon did not take, steal nor bring back this obelisk from Egypt! This happened ten years after Napoleon passed away! In 1830, Charles X, second King after the restoration of Monarchy, received it as a gift from Mehemet Ali, Vice Roy of Egypt.

Is the obelisk in Paris stolen? ›

The Luxor Obelisk left in Egypt that was unable to be moved to Paris remained French property until 1981, when it was ceremonially given back to Egypt. You would think this meant France would return the obelisk they smuggled to Europe, but the Luxor Obelisk still stands tall in Paris to this day.

What is the purpose of an obelisk? ›

Scholars believe that obelisks represented eternity and immortality, and their long, tapering form functioned to connect the heavens and the earth.

Can you see Eiffel Tower from Place de la Concorde? ›

Many of the best places to view the Eiffel Tower are actually iconic Paris locations themselves. One of these is at Place de la Concorde and Rue de Rivoli. Here, at the corner of the Tuileries Gardens sits the famous Lion au Serpent statue.

What is a fun fact about Place de la Concorde? ›

In its early days, the famous Place de la Concorde was not known by this name. In fact, it has changed names at least 4 times! First it was called Place Louis XV (1748-1792), then Place de la Révolution (1792-1795). Between 1826-1828, the square was renamed again, this time to Place Louis XVI.

How many people were killed at Place de la Concorde? ›

During this period of terror between 1792 and 1793, 2,498 people were guillotined in Paris with 1,119 on this site, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, Philippe d'Orleans, Danton, Lavoisier and Malesherbes. At the end of the Terror, the Directory renamed this place as Place de la Concorde.

What does an obelisk symbolize? ›

Scholars believe that obelisks represented eternity and immortality, and their long, tapering form functioned to connect the heavens and the earth. Their pinnacles were typically covered in gold to reflect the sunlight.

What is the obelisk on Champs Elysee? ›

The obelisk is made of syenite, a magmatic rock, and is 23 metres high and weighs 230 tonnes. It is covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions, including the cartouche of Ramses II, in which the king makes an offering to the god Amun-Ra. At its summit sits a 3.60-metre pyramidion clad in bronze and covered with gold leaf.

What is written on the obelisk? ›

Hieroglyphic inscriptions on the four sides of the stone would name the reigning pharaoh and include a dedication to the god of the temple. Obelisks are almost as old as Egypt's pharaonic history itself, with the earliest examples constructed during the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2125 BC).

What is the pointy thing in Paris? ›

Eiffel Tower

This iron needle is the highest point in the relatively low-rise center of Paris, elegantly planted in the Champs de Mars public park. Gustave Eiffel's wrought-iron structure was designed to be the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris World's Fair.

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