Reclamation, Plunder, and Restoration of Marble in Rome

Continuing on from the last blog entry, our rep John Leonard writes: while in Rome, I am making a point to observe the marble, granite, and travertine so prevalent in the archeological sites, churches, and public spaces. As I learn more about the history of the architecture and building practices, I see a pattern over and over again. The planners and builders over the millennia very often practiced reclamation of building materials. In fact, when dealing with treasures or priceless art, the word ‘plunder’ arguably describes it better. That would be a whole separate blog, so I’ll focus on natural stone here….

Whoever controlled Rome, controlled the building (and demolition) of monuments, temples, and significant structures. When temples to pagan gods or cults were outlawed by newly-converted Christian Emperors, they were temporarily abandoned. What to do with the magnificent marble-clad structures of yesteryear? Reuse them! Marble and granite columns, and all.

In guidebooks accompanying me (notably, the Blue Guide: Rome, and Art and Architecture: Rome), I am reading how this city’s architectural elements have been swapped from location to location. A column from the Roman Forum now stands in front of a church; melted-down bronze from the roof of the Pantheon was used to make cannons for the nearby castle, and also used in St. Peter’s Basilica; the baths of Diocletian, redesigned by Michelangelo, now house a monumental church; and the largest ‘quarry’ of them all, the Colosseum, gave up it’s travertine for hundreds of years, some of which also ended up in (you guessed it) St. Peters Basilica. One can even be walking past a church and suddenly see Doric or Ionic columns along the length of building and realize a temple to the cult of an ancient Roman god is now another ‘temple’ to our modern God.

Sungloss Marble Restoration Company in Chicago exists to restore, polish, hone, clean, and seal marble, travertine, granite, limestone, and all other natural stone. We help reclaim stone in a far different way than the Popes and Emperors. Our services go hand-in-hand with conscientious developers, condominium boards, and construction companies, who wish to save natural stone. If a slab is reclaimed from an older building being demolished, we can clean it and polish it so that it’s reuse is easier and cheaper than quarrying new stone. That saves huge amounts of water and gasoline, both of which are required to cut and transport quarried stone, sometimes from far corners of the world. Next time Sungloss is called in to restore your natural stone, perhaps the Eternal City of Rome will come to mind.

The Baths of Diocletian repurposed with the help of Michelangelo, into a massive church.

Street scene in Rome showing a church wall with reused Roman columns.