porphyry (geology)


  • [16] Ancient Egyptians used other decorative porphyritic stones of a very close composition and appearance, but apparently remained unaware of the presence of the Roman grade
    although it was located in their own country.

  • She notes that these Sicilian porphyry sarcophagi “are the very first examples of medieval free-standing secular tombs in the West, and therefore play a unique role within
    the history of Italian sepulchral art (earlier and later tombs are adjacent to, and dependent on walls).

  • [40] • Sarcophagus of Frederick II in Palermo Cathedral, Sicily, made of porphyry • Interior of the de’ Medici Cappella dei Principi in Florence (1870s photograph) • Sarcophagus
    of Napoleon in Les Invalides, Paris, made of quartzite with a pedestal of green porphyry • Wellington’s sarcophagus in the crypt of St Paul’s in London made from a single block of luxullianite porphyry Modern uses In countries where many automobiles
    have studded winter tires such as Sweden, Finland, and Norway, it is common that highways are paved with asphalt made of porphyry aggregate to make the wearing course withstand the extreme wear from the spiked winter tires.

  • Porphyry was extensively used in Byzantine imperial monuments, for example in Hagia Sophia[26] and in the “Porphyra”, the official delivery room for use of pregnant Empresses
    in the Great Palace of Constantinople, giving rise to the phrase “born in the purple”.

  • In its non-geologic, traditional use, the term porphyry usually refers to the purple-red form of this stone, valued for its appearance, but other colours of decorative porphyry
    are also used such as “green”, “black” and “grey”.

  • As if it were not enough that porphyry was explicitly for imperial use, the stone’s rarity set the emperors apart from their subjects as their superiors.

  • Scholar Rosa Bacile argues that they were carved by a local workshop from porphyry imported from Rome, the latter four plausibly (based on observation of their fluting) all
    from a single column shaft that may have been taken from the Baths of Caracalla or the Baths of Diocletian.

  • The Romans also used “Green Porphyry” (lapis Lacedaemonius,[22] from Greece, also known today as Serpentine),[23] and “Black Porphyry” from the same Egyptian quarry.

  • Porphyry made the emperors unapproachable in terms of power and nature, belonging to another world, the world of the mighty gods, present for a short time on earth.

  • [25] Four presently adorn the facade of the main building of the İstanbul Archaeology Museums,[32] including one whose rounded shape led Alexander Vasiliev to suggest attribution
    to Emperor Julian on the basis of Constantine Porphyrogenitus’s description.

  • The road from the quarry westward to Qena (Roman Maximianopolis) on the Nile, which Ptolemy put on his second-century map, was first described by Strabo, and it is to this
    day known as the Via Porphyrites, the Porphyry Road, its track marked by the hydreumata, or watering wells that made it viable in this utterly dry landscape.

  • Subsequently, the name was given to any igneous rocks with large crystals.

  • [25] Porphyry sarcophagi in post-Roman Western Europe[edit] The imperial porphyry sarcophagi tradition was emulated by Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great (454-526), whose
    mausoleum in Ravenna still contains a porphyry tub that was used as his sarcophagus.

  • [7] The significance of porphyritic texture as an indication that magma forms through different stages of cooling was first recognized by the Canadian geologist, Norman L.
    Bowen, in 1928.

  • [30] Roman and late Roman imperial sarcophagi[edit] Porphyry sarcophagus, Istanbul Archaeological Museum A uniquely prestigious use of porphyry was its choice as material
    for imperial sarcophagi in the 4th and early 5th centuries.

  • [7] Porphyry can also form even from magma that completely solidifies while still underground.

  • [citation needed] It was also sometimes used in Minoan art, and as early as 1850 BC on Crete in Minoan Knossos there were large column bases made of porphyry.

  • [27] Choosing porphyry as a material was a bold and specific statement for late Imperial Rome.

  • This forms phenocrysts,[5] which usually have plenty of room for growth, and form large, well-shaped crystals with characteristic crystal faces (euhedral crystals).

  • [3] Thus porphyry was prized for monuments and building projects in Imperial Rome and thereafter.

  • Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (36, 11) affirmed that the “Imperial Porphyry” had been discovered in Egypt during the reign of Tiberius; by the way an inscription recently
    discovered and dated from AD 18 mentions the Roman Caius Cominius Leugas as the finder of the new quarry.

  • That tradition appears to have been started with Diocletian’s porphyry sarcophagus in his mausoleum, which was destroyed when the building was repurposed as a church but of
    which probable fragments are at the Archaeological Museum in Split, Croatia.

  • Similar to porphyry, purple fabric was extremely difficult to make, as what we now call Tyrian purple required the use of rare sea snails to make the dye.

  • [37] The tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides in Paris, designed by architect Louis Visconti, is centered on the deceased emperor’s sarcophagus that often has been described
    as made of red porphyry although this is incorrect.

  • Purple porphyry was used lavishly throughout the opulent chapel as well, with a revetment of marbles, inlaid with other colored marbles and semi-precious stone, that covers
    the walls completely.

  • [38] The sarcophagus of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington at St Paul’s Cathedral was completed in 1858. and was made from a single piece of Cornish porphyry,[39] of
    a type called luxullianite, which was found in a field near Lostwithiel.

  • The comparative vividness of porphyry to other stones underscored that these figures were not regular citizens, but many levels above, even gods, and worthy of the respect
    they expected.


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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rkramer62/7069622551/’]