NOVA Online (click here for NOVA home)
Mysteries of the Nile
Site Map

Ramses II obelisk Paris
back to A World of Obelisks

Location: Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
Pharaoh: Ramses II (reigned 1304-1237 B.C.)
Height: 74 feet
Weight: 227 tons
Story: Legend has it that Josephine's parting words to Napoleon before he began his failed conquest of Egypt in 1798 were: "If you go to Thebes, do send me a little obelisk." Whether or not the story is true, Napoleon's expedition first left France desiring an obelisk of its own, though it wasn't until 1831 that the moment arrived. That year, a French naval engineer named Jean Baptiste Apollinaire Lebas secured permission from the then-ruler of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, to make off with Ramses the Great's pair of obelisks before Luxor Temple.

Fortunately, it was all Lebas could do to take the western one. (The eastern obelisk remains at Luxor.) In the 3,000 years since Ramses had raised the obelisk, the area around it, including the temple itself, had filled up with earth, houses, and streets. Lebas had this cleared amidst summer heat that could reach 120°F. In the end, it took two months to get the obelisk down and on board the ship Louxor, and another three years before Lebas successfully re-erected it in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Back to A World of Obelisks

Photo: Courtesty of

Explore Ancient Egypt | Raising the Obelisk | Meet the Team
Dispatches | Pyramids | E-Mail | Resources
Classroom Resources | Site Map | Mysteries of the Nile Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000