The obelisk cradled in a double tower of massive timbers, ready to be raised in St. Peter's Square
Image from Carlo Fontana's Templum Vaticanum of 1694. A massive volume, it was printed in Latin and Italian to appeal to an international audience. In it, he covered the history of St. Peter's.
He also described and illustrated his distant relative Domenico's great achievement, in 1586, of moving an Egyptian obelisk to a place of prominence in the then-new St. Peter's Square of Bernini.
This obelisk stood in the center of Nero's Circus in ancient Rome, and by the 16th century was at the side of St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican. A succession of Popes had considered various proposals for moving it into a place of prominence in front of the church, until at last Pope Sixtus V commissioned the move in 1585. The proposal of Domenico Fontana, a distant relative of Carlo, was accepted.
This massive logistical and engineering project took a year to complete, from groundbreaking to final removal of all scaffolding. On the day of the actual raising of the obelisk at its new site, a large crowd of spectators was cordoned off around the work area and warned to be silent on pain of death while bells and trumpets signalled the complex maneuvers of over 800 men and 140 horses.
Pictured here is the obelisk cradled in a double tower of massive timbers, ready to be raised and secured with countless ropes, windlasses, pulleys, and capstans.