Essential Architecture-  London

Cleopatra's Needle

architect

originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III.

location

on the Embankment of the Thames

date

1450 BC

style

Ancient Egyptian

construction

21 metres (68 feet) high, weighs about 180 tons and is inscribed with hieroglyphs
Each is made of red granite brought from Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile.

type

Monument
 
 
  Cleopatra's Needle (London), with (left) the Victoria Embankment and (right) the River Thames
 
  One of two sphinxes at the base of Cleopatra's Needle (London). The scars that disfigure the pedestal of this sphynx were caused by fragments of a WWI bomb dropped in the roadway close to this spot, in the first air raid on London by German aeroplanes a few minutes before midnight on Tuesday 4 September 1917
London's Needle being erected, August 1878

London's Needle being erected, August 1878

Cleopatra's Needles are a trio of obelisks in London, Paris (Place de la Concorde) and New York City. Each is made of red granite, stands about 21 metres (68 feet) high, weighs about 180 tons and is inscribed with hieroglyphs. Although the needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, they are somewhat misnamed as none has any connection with queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. They were originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. The material of which they were cut is granite, brought from Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramses II to commemorate his military victories. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesarium — a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony — by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus Caesar, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.

History of the needles

London
The London needle is in the City of Westminster, on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges. It was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by Mehemet Ali, the Albanian-born viceroy of Egypt, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London.

The obelisk remained in Alexandria until 1877 when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a distinguished anatomist and dermatologist, sponsored its transportation to London at a cost of some £10,000 (a very considerable sum in those days). It was dug out of the sand in which it had been buried for nearly 2,000 years and was encased in a great iron cylinder, 92 feet long and 15 feet in diameter, designed by the engineer John Dixon and dubbed Cleopatra. It had a vertical stem and stern, a rudder, two bilge keels, a mast for balancing sails, and a deck house. This acted as a floating pontoon which was to be towed to London by the ship Olga.

The effort met with disaster on 14 October 1877, when the Cleopatra capsized in a storm in the Bay of Biscay, with the loss of six lives. The Cleopatra did not sink but instead drifted in the Bay until it was rescued by the English ship Fitzmaurice and taken to Ferrol in Spain for repairs. It finally arrived in Gravesend on 21 January 1878. The obelisk was erected on the Victoria Embankment the following August.

Cleopatra's Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes cast from bronze that bear hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh (the good god, Thuthmosis III given life. The Embankment has other Egyptian flourishes, such as buxom winged sphinxes on the armrests of benches. On 4 September 1917, during World War I, bombs from the first German air raid on London by German aeroplanes landed near the needle. In commemoration of this event, the damage remains unrepaired to this day and is clearly visible in the form of shrapnel holes and gouges on the right-hand sphinx. Restoration work was carried out in 2005.

Cleopatra's Needle in Paris at the Place de la Concorde.

Paris
The Paris Needle is in the Place de la Concorde. The center of the Place is occupied by the giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, presented the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829. King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde in 1833. Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machineries that were used for the transportation. The red granite column rises 23 metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tonnes. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, in 1998 the government of France added a goldleafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by two fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.



New York
The New York needle is in Central Park. It was after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 that Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, first mentioned the gift of one of the Obelisks to the United States in the hope of cultivating trade relations, but it was formally given in a letter dated May 18, 1879. And even then it wasn’t erected in Central Park until January 22, 1881. Railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt financed the project and the formidable task of moving the Obelisk from Alexandria to New York was given to Henry Honychurch Gorringe, a lieutenant commander of the U.S. Navy. The move took a decade to complete. According to Central Park’s website the 244 ton granite needle was first shifted from vertical to horizontal, then put into the hold of a ship, across the Mediterranean Sea, then over the storm-tossed Atlantic Ocean without stop. It took four months just to bring it from the banks of the Hudson River to Central Park. The final leg of the journey was made across a specially built trestle bridge from Fifth Avenue to its new home on Greywacke Knoll, just across the drive from the then recently built Metropolitan Museum of Art. At its base are four 900-pound, 19th-century bronze replicas of crabs, which were first placed there by the Romans and are on display in the Met.

The inscriptions

New York
Three sides of the New York needle's inscriptions are well-preserved due to the long burial of the needle, although one side, exposed to the New York prevailing winds, has been almost totally weathered away. They are translated as follows:

Face 1:

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Beloved-of-Ra,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra,

Ra, created by the gods, who founded the Two

Lands, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-

Amun,

there is no-one who did what he did, in the house of his father,

the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra,

Chosen of Ra, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved of Amun, granted life like Ra,

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Appearing-in-Thebes,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt,

Men-kheper-ra, who embellishes the house of him who created him,

...........

(the Son of Ra, Thutmose), beloved of (Atum),

lord (of Heliopolis), May he live for ever.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Son-of-Ra,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra.Chosen-of-Ra,

the Golden Horus,

Mighty-in-years-and-great-of-victories, the Son of Ra, Ramesses,

Beloved-of-Amun,

...........

the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra,

Chosen-of Ra,

the Son of-Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun.

Face 2:

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Son-of-Khepri,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, the-Golden Horus,

Mighty-in years-and-great-of-victories, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, who came forth from the womb in order to receive

the crowns of Ra, who created him to be sole lord the Lord of the Two Lands,

User-maat-ra Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra.

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Appearing-in Thebes,

he of the Two La Goddesses,

Enduring-of-kingship-like-Ra-in-heaven, Bodily son of Atum, whom the Mistress of

Heliopolis bore to him, Thutmose,

whom they created in the temple in the beauty of their members, knowing that

he would exercise enduring kingship throughout eternity,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-kheper-ra, beloved of Atum, the great god,

together with his Enneat,

granted all life, stability, and dominion like Ra for ever.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Beloved-of-Ra,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra,

Ra, created by the gods, who founded the Two Lands, the Son of Ra, Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun,

the noble youth, beloved like Aten when the shines on the horizeon,

the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-Ra,

Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.

Face 3:

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Son-of-Khepri,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, the-Golden Horus,

Mighty-in years-and-great-of-victories, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, who came forth from the womb in order to receive

the crowns of Ra, who created him to be sole lord the Lord of the Two Lands,

User-maat-ra Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra.

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Appearing-in Thebes,

he of the Two La Goddesses,

Enduring-of-kingship-like-Ra-in-heaven, Bodily son of Atum, whom the Mistress of

Heliopolis bore to him, Thutmose,

whom they created in the temple in the beauty of their members, knowing that

he would exercise enduring kingship throughout eternity,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-kheper-ra, beloved of Atum, the great god,

together with his Enneat,

granted all life, stability, and dominion like Ra for ever.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Beloved-of-Ra,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra,

Ra, created by the gods, who founded the Two Lands, the Son of Ra, Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun,

the noble youth, beloved like Aten when the shines on the horizon,

the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-Ra,

Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.

Face 4:

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Son-of-Khepri,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra, the-Golden Horus,

Mighty-in years-and-great-of-victories, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, who came forth from the womb

in order to receive the crowns of Ra,

who created him to be sole lord the Lord of the Two Lands,

User-maat-ra Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra.

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Appearing-in Thebes,

he of the Two La Goddesses,

Enduring-of-kingship-like-Ra-in-heaven, Bodily son of Atum, whom the Mistress of

Heliopolis bore to him, Thutmose,

whom they created in the temple in the beauty of their members, knowing that

he would exercise enduring kingship throughout eternity,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-kheper-ra, beloved of Atum,

the great god, together with his Enneat,

granted all life, stability, and dominion like Ra for ever.

The Horus, Strong-Bull-Beloved-of-Ra,

the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, User-maat-ra, Chosen-of-Ra,

Ra, created by the gods, who founded the Two Lands, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun,

the noble youth, beloved like Aten when the shines on the horizeon,

the Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-Ra,

Chosen-of-Ra, the Son of Ra,

Ramesses, Beloved-of-Amun, one serviceable to Ra and granted life like Ra.


 

links

 
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