MARBLE – King of Ancient Times

The term marble has its origin in the Greek word marmarein, i.e. to glitter, which refers to one of the essential properties of the famous ancient marbles. The word mramor got into Czech language from the Latin word marmor by shifting sounds.

Origin and composition

The meaning of the term marble is a complex thing, in technical terminology it means all polishable limestones and dolomites, both crystalline and sedimentary. Petrographic terminology calls it a metamorphite whose composition corresponds to crystalline limestone or dolomite. Stonemasons regard any polishable rocks as marble.

According to their origin, there are sedimentary marbles and transformed marbles. However, they have a common (marine) origin in both cases, as metamorphogenic marbles were formed by contact or regional metamorphosis. Marbles are solid and layered, solid and cracked or corrugated, they can have a variety of colours, which is caused by dispersed minerals in the micritic mass. There are marbles from pure white through various ochres (limonite), shades of red (hematite), greenish (amphibole, serpentine) or bluish colour, to completely black (bitumens). Marble can be purely single-coloured or richly patterned with a variety of grain, smudges or stripes. There are over 70 types of marble in our territory.

Building and sculpting material

Marble has been used since ancient times as a decorative, building and sculpting material. In ancient times, marble was widely used for sculptures that were originally painted very colourful. But time removed the colour, so it was assumed for a very long time that the statues had always been white. White marble from the vicinity of Athens was used to build the famous Parthenon and the Athenian Propylaea. The most famous statue of all time is David by Michelangelo, sculpted from Carrara white marble. Other well-known marble statues are The Kiss by August Rodin, Before Taking Bath by Jan Štursa and The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.

Marbles in our territory

Marbles have been used in our territory since prehistoric times. It is evidenced by findings in several small quarries on Bílý Kámen near Sázava, where decorative objects such as bracelets and beads were already made of white marble in the Neolithic. These quarries belong to the oldest in Europe. In architecture and sculpture, however, marbles began to be used much later in our country. Probably the oldest known surviving example of the use of marble are the remains of patterned tiles from the 13th century in the remains of the basilica in the basement of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The main development of marble mining and processing in our countries probably occurs after the arrival of Italian builders and stonemasons in 1534, who, in addition to their new Renaissance style, also brought experience with the mining and processing of marble from their homeland. This created the preconditions for the massive use of marble, especially in the decoration of churches and monasteries in the Baroque period. Another important era of the use of our marbles began in the second half of the 19th century, when they began to be used to a greater extent in public buildings, at the National Theatre for the first time. The use of marbles had its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, when old marble quarries were expanded and new were established. At that time marbles were widely used in public and private construction as well as in sculpture. After World War II, marble industry in our country tried to build on its pre-war level, however, despite some undeniable successes, it failed to achieve it.

Zdroj: Lomy a těžba