3,300-year-old obelisk restored and cleaned

The 3,300-year-old Luxor obelisk on the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris is being restored and gently cleaned to mark the 200th anniversary of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The project is a cooperation between Kärcher and the French Ministry of Culture. Kärcher is not only financing the complete restoration of the valuable monument as part of its cultural sponsorship, but is also carrying out the cleaning itself.

The obelisk on the Place de la Concorde cleaned by Kärcher

Intensive cooperation with project partners

In close coordination with the project partners, such as the Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs of the Île-de-France Region (DRAC) in the Ministry of Culture, under the construction management of the chief architect for historical monuments, François Chatillon, and with scientific support from the research laboratory for historical monuments, Kärcher is implementing the concept for the restoration of the monument. The company has thus not only taken over the financing, but also the coordination for the overall restoration of the 23-metre-high and 222-tonne column, which will be gentle on the substance. In order not to damage the precious original surface of the historic façade, a comprehensive plan was drawn up for all measures.

Restoration work on the Luxor obelisk, Paris
Cleaning the Obelisk of Luxor, Paris

Most of the cleaning is done with the so-called low-pressure micro-particle blasting method. With a surface pressure of only 0.5 to 1 bar and a distance of 15 to 20 cm, most of the deposits caused by weathering and emisson contamination can be removed. To protect themselves against the fine dusts produced in the process, the cleaning specialists wear full-body protection with a breathing mask and fresh air supply.

The gilded tip of the Luxor obelisk

A team of restorers also cleans spots on the podium, the pedestal as well as gilding and engravings with special radiator sponges. Specialists in gilding undertake the overhaul and restoration of the gold leaf of the pyramidion on top of the obelisk.

Restoration of the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde

The restorers also take care of removing old, now damaged epoxy grouting, repointing and consolidating damaged areas.

Restoration of the Luxor Obelisk

The occasion is the 200th anniversary of the decipherment of hieroglyphs by the French linguist Jean-François Champollion in 1822. With the help of the Rosetta Stone, which contained the same inscription in different languages, Champollion succeeded in deciphering the lost written language. There are numerous hieroglyphs on the obelisk that Ramses II had inscribed. To commemorate this historic day, there are numerous exhibitions and events in France this year, among others in the Louvre and in Champollion's birthplace Figeac.

The pollution consists mainly of emissions from the big city: exhaust fumes from vehicles, air pollutants such as fine dust and chimney soot. Presumably, these only came onto the surface of the obelisk since it has been in France. Most of the cleaning is done with the gentle low-pressure particle blasting method.

First of all, consolidating measures are carried out, i.e. measures to preserve the existing structure. This includes the removal of old, now damaged epoxy resin grouting, new grouting and the consolidation of damaged areas. The gilded pyramidion and the gilded engravings on the pedestal of the obelisk are cleaned by restorers with sponges and the gildings are overhauled and restored.

The obelisk on the Place de la Concorde was made in the 13th century BC in the 19th dynasty under the pharaoh Ramses II and stood in the temple of Luxor in Upper Egypt until the beginning of the 19th century. The Viceroy of Egypt, Muhamed Ali Pasha, made it a gift to the French King Louis Philippe in 1829. The extremely complicated transport by ship to France took three years and after the obelisk arrived in Paris in the summer of 1834, it took another two years until it could be erected - in front of more than 200,000 spectators and with the help of an elaborate wooden construction. It is the oldest monument in Paris.

The Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde in Paris

Together with the French Ministry of Culture, Kärcher had called on students of the art academy "Beaux-Arts de Paris" in December to submit designs for the artistic design of the scaffolding tarpaulin. The proposal of the artist Jonathan Sobel was selected. His design in yellow (in reference to the well-known Kärcher yellow as well as the Egyptian sun) and grey (Parisian sky) shows images of Ramses II, Mehmed Ali, Charles X and Champollion, i.e. four people who are connected with the development of the monument.

Details of the building tarpaulin on the obelisk

The drawings of the portraits consist of various symbols, such as hieroglyphics, the seal of Ramses II, images of the French Revolution or the ship on which the obelisk was transported to France.

Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, Paris

All facts at a glance

Country: France

Location: Paris, Place de la Concorde

Type of soiling: Emissions, sporadic biological growth.
Cleaning technology: low-pressure particle blasting, hot water high-pressure cleaner in the steam stage

Implementation: January - May 2022