A look into the history of Carrara Marbles, marbles that have been gracing structures and monuments around the world for 2000 years.
In case you were wondering if you have ever seen Carrera Marbles, the short answer is a very resounding yes. If not in person, then most definitely in paintings or photographs. If you ever come across the Harvard Medical School, Michelangelo’s David and or lardo di Colonnata, in person or in painting or photographs, you have come across the wonder of the marble world, the Carrara Marble. These marbles are found tucked inside the Apuan Alps in the Italian city of Carrara. These marbles have been quarried in this region of the world for almost 2000 years. The history of these marbles makes them almost a kind of “celebrity” in the world of marbles. They also do enjoy a much more exalted position in the world of marbles. They have some very popular uses with one being the Carrara Marble Tiles. Below we will look at some of the history behind the story of these extremely popular choice of marbles.
These marbles, like most types of marbles, is a rock that has gone through the process of metamorphosis and is made of incredibly (microscopic) little calcium carbonate crystals. If you have seen lime soil in tropical oceans, emerging from big coral reefs, you’ll pretty much understand how Carrara Marble is formed. It’s basically a rock, formed by calcium carbonate crystals. The unique crystalline structure is the result of years of high pressure and temperature variation.
The Carrara Marble of the white variety are characterized by their homogeneity, consisting of a white to grey ground colours, the veins of the marble are usually shiny and the veins are smoky grey and it goes along the stone pretty irregularly. There are in general two variations of Carrara Marbles – Bianco di Carrara C and Bianco di Carrara CD. These marbles usually brighten over time as a result of the marble losing water which are found in its pores.
The unpredictability of the variety of colours found in the marble’s ground and veins make it particularly spectacular. The ones with light ground color give the appearance of being all white; marbles with grey or little veins is called Statuario – this variety is the one used by Michelangelo and it makes up about 5% of the stone mining. The other kind of Carrara Marble are the ones that have ivory-coloured ground tones called Calacatta.
Two other types of the Carrara Marble are the Arabesque and the Bardigilio. The Arabesque are the ones that have a surface decoration that looks like Arabian Art. The Bardigilio ones have dark grey ground colour and are nearly blue in some spots.
Carrara Marbles are primarily used in the making of stairs but it has been used in kitchen tops and other working surfaces. It has historically been also used for tomb stone art. Carrara Marbles of the white variety have also been used for food storage. Bowls are made out of this marble and are usually rubbed with garlic.
Besides, the white Carrara Marble serves for food storage. Bowls are made of marble and rubbed with garlic. Then slices of bacon are put in and spiced up with several spices (pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, sage and rosemary). In this way one obtains the famous bacon lardo di Colonnata. If you grind spices as basil, garlic and pine nuts in a mortar made of Carrara marble, you’ll get the famous Genovese Pesto Sauce.
These marbles have been mined for a very long time. The Ancient Romans have been known to have been big fans of these marbles and their quarries are still visible to this day. It is no wonder that their earlier structures and sculptures look so majestic. That is just an inherent quality of the Carrara Marbles. The Romans used to ship these marbles overseas from their port in Luni, which is the reason that this variety of the marbles are called “Pietra di Luni.”
During the Medieval Times in particular, architects played a vital role in popularising the use of these marbles in North and Middle Italy in particular for the construction of cathedrals. And as we have already mentioned, a very famous user of these marbles was Michelangelo. Michelangelo was so passionate about these marbles that he used to choose his blocks of marbles personally in the quarries.
These marbles have enjoyed and still to this day, enjoy a very exalted reputation in the world of marbles. The durability of these marbles along with their classic timeless beauty is second to none. The proof of this provided by the numerous architectures and sculptures that have spanned over the last two thousand years.
So, in conclusion, it is safe to say that Carrara Marbles do enjoy a very exalted status in the architecture and sculpting world and they do so for very obvious reasons. The fact that Michelangelo used them should be reason enough to provide evidence of their beauty. While their durability and proven record in the world gives them that extra bit of clout necessary for them to have made this status for themselves.
If you ever get the chance, we would highly recommend going to the Italian city of Carrara to see these limestones for yourselves. You will get to see sculptors – some robot and some human – making statues out of a block of limestone. If you are lucky, you will get to see areas that are off limits to visitors generally. Here you will get to see the artistic side of the mining industry. We would highly recommend getting an expert tour guide to give you a full roundup of the history of these incredible natural wonders of the marble world.