The oldest monument in Paris is more than 3000 years old, it is the Obelisk of Luxor !
The Obelisk of Luxor, the oldest monument in Paris
A sculpted granite monolith, the Obelisk of Luxor has been erected in the center of the Place de la Concorde since 1836. It was offered in 1829 by Egypt in recognition of the work of the Frenchman Jean-François Champollion for the decipherment of hieroglyphics, carried out in 1822. The Concorde Obelisk comes from Luxor and is the oldest monument in Paris, over 3000 years old. Offered by the viceroy of Egypt Mehemet Ali in 1831, it is one of the two obelisks built by Ramses II at the entrance to the Luxor temple. Originally, France was to receive the pair, but the transport of the first was so long and tedious that the second was symbolically returned to Egypt in 1994.
A historic parisian axis
This huge block of pink granite was erected in the center of the square in October 1836 and serves as a historic Parisian axis between the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Arc de la Défense, the Tuileries and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The monolith dates from the 13th century BC, is 23 meters high and weighs 222 tons, to which must be added the 240 tons of the pedestal. It consists of a pink granite very poor in quartz (a syenite) from Syene (now Aswan). In these same quarries, an unfinished obelisk was found. It adorned, with another obelisk still in place, the entrance to the Luxor temple in Thebes.
Engraved with hieroglyphs
The four sides of the Condord Obelisk are engraved with hieroglyphs, scenes of offerings to the glory of Ramses II. The summit is surmounted by a pyramidion, as pointed as it is sparkling, 3.60 m high, covered in bronze, of a color close to the electrum used in ancient Egypt. This coating, installed in May 1998, on the proposal of the Egyptologist Christiane Desroches Noblecourt, is supposed to replace a previous summit ornament, carried away during invasions in Egypt in the 6th century. The pedestal of the Obelisk is made of five blocks of pink granite from the quarries of Aber-Ildut, in Brittany. It was designed as part of the general redevelopment of Place de la Concorde by Jacques Ignace Hittorff in the 19th century. Two of its sides show the removal, transport and reassembly of the Obelisk, the other two bear an inscription recalling the patronage of the project by Louis Philippe and alluding to France’s Egyptian commitment since Napoleon I.
One of the oldest sundial
The idea of using the obelisk as a horizontal sundial had already been thought up by the astronomer Camille Flammarion in 1913, then taken up again in 1939 by Daniel Roguet: a stroke of bad luck, the two world wars aborted the project twice ! Today, the lines of the dial start from the obelisk, cross the Place de la Concorde and end with Roman numerals that adorn the cobblestones, engraved in bronze. Even if it seems that the dial of Concorde no longer has its status as the largest in the world since the construction, in 2009, of a dial on the vault of the Castillon hydroelectric dam in the Alps, it is still the most impressive, in the heart of the City of Light!