GREECE... THE COUNTRY OF MARBLE
A long tradition in the art of marble with a long history that it’s lost in the depths of the ages.
Greece is famous all over the world for its marble monuments, while on the world market of decorative rocks many of the Greek marbles are highly appreciated because they have been identified with the masterpieces of the sculpture and the architecture of ancient Greece, with unique and unmistakable works of art, which continue through the centuries to distract the world's admiration.
From the depths of the centuries sculptors and architects of Ancient Greece have discovered the charm of marble and stone and chose for their works the finest materials that with their natural beauty could showcase the inanimate structures in works of art. Marbles that, as they were patiently carved, as if they were absorbing, blow after blow, more and more of the energy and passion of artists to gain plasticity and movement to eventually transform into monumental works of art. Marbles that, as they were patiently carved, as if they were absorbing, blow after blow, more and more of the energy and passion of artists to gain plasticity and movement to eventually transform into monumental works of art.
The use of marble in ancient Greece was widespread. The marble and the stone moved deeply into human existence, touched its sensitive strings and dragged it into the world of creation, aesthetics and symmetry. In so many monuments scattered in every place of the Greek land, as well as in the sculptural masterpieces that adorn the museums of Greece and abroad and magnetize the visitor, there are details revealing the glory of the civilization at that time, that only the fine marble could save . The Aphrodite of Milos, Hermes of Praxiteles, the Victory of Samothrace, and the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea of the Acropolis of Athens, are only representative examples of the ancient spirit's expression on the unparalleled Greek marble. The extraction and use of marble in ancient Greece starts from the depths of the centuries. Already in the Middle Neohellenic Age (about 5,000 BC) we have marble women's figurines, and later we follow the series of famous Cycladic idols. In the architecture of ancient Greece, marble is widely used much later. In the 6th BC, marble is used in many works combined with the travertine. Representative examples of monuments at that time are the temple of Zeus in Olympia with marble and travertine architectural members, as well as the temple of Apollo in Delphi with parian marble on the façade and travertine in the rest of the building. Also in Peisistratus Square and the Acropolis of Athens metopes, cornices and coals were made of marble and all other members were travertines. Marble, then, seems to have been used primarily for the construction of the parts of the front structures exposed to rain and the difference in the color of the two materials was eliminated by the placement of coatings on the limestone.
In the 5th and 4thCentury, marble was used more widely. The quarries of the Cyclades already yielded abundant raw material. In Paros, the white homogeneous marble, particularly easy to carve, was mined, known to the ancients as the Parisian or Parian stone or Lychnitis, because its extraction took place in underground arcades with the light of the lynch. From this marble were made masterpieces of sculpture, such as Hermes of Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Milos and others. Also, white marble was mined in Naxos, but it was inferior in quality to that of Paros. Naxian marble was used in the first half of the 5th century BC. Century in sculpture and architecture, not only in Naxos, but also in Olympia, Alifeira in the temple of Athena and Calydonia.
White marble quarries were also found in other Aegean islands, Anafi, Tinos, Thassos and others. Especially the white Thassos marbles were of good quality, but they were not easy to process it. However, they were exported to the neighboring islands, on the coasts of Thrace and Asia Minor. A man figure ( Krioforos Kouros), which is located at the Museum of Thassos and has a height of 3.5 meters, comes from an archaic quarry. There are no ancient testimonies about how to extracted the marbles, but from findings in the ancient quarries that have been preserved to this day, it seems that mining did not differ much from that used by the quarries, until a few years ago, before generalizing the use of modern mining machinery (wire mesh, compressed air equipment, high power loading machines, etc.).
The ancient quarries were distinguished in surface and underground, such as that of Paros, where the garnet stone was mined. There were also quarries that opened them to make a specific project, as well as large organized quarries where marble was mined for various projects and many times was transporting over long distances. These large ancient quarries, most of which have been destroyed by subsequent holdings, since as a rule there was a quarry where the subsequent ones continued their exploitation.
In the open quarries, the removal of the volumes was done by creating vertical and horizontal grooves with saw and sand. Slots were then opened on wedges made of iron or dry wood, which when was swirling, was swollen and helped to remove the tumor from the maternal rock.
According to the French Tony Kozelj, a member of the mission of the French Archaeological School in Greece, who promotes excavations in Thassos and is a member of the International Organization of few scientists, who study the exploitation of marble quarries in antiquity, it is not right what is said that the ancients drew the marbles with wooden wedges that raked them to "inflate" the wood and thus cut the marble. According to Tony Kozelj, the ancients were using wooden wedges, 25-27 cm, only in the quarries of shale and limestone. They were putting the wooden wedges in the water to inflate all night and then were left them all day in the sun to dry the wood. So the wood became very dry and could be used to extract the stone, but not the marble. Marble quarries always used metal wedges. Tony Kozelj has estimated that it took 22 hours of continuous work from two people to open the ancient 1 meter long groove and make the holes for the wedges.
After the extraction of the tumor was followed by the first carving or "pellecisis". In this way, it has left unnecessary weight and it has been easier to transport. The capitals, columns, and various half-finished statues found in ancient marble quarries reinforce this belief. The transfer of the boulders from the quarry to the workshop was called by the ancient "transportation of stones" and was not always easy, because the distance was very long and the terrain was mountainous and uneven, while the sea was mediated. Usually for small and horizontal distances and for non-large volumes they used phalanges or coils, that is to say, wooden cylinders. From the slopes of the mountains and in general from sloping planes the transport was done on wooden grids. These rocks were tied to one end of ropes that rolled slowly - slowly out of fixed piles or trees to keep the weight from sudden landslide. In the case of longer distances with a slight inclination, In the case of longer distances with a slight inclination, they used four-wheeled wagons were pulled by couples of cattle.
The rising of the volumes of the was marbleto be placed on the wagons accomplished by the ancients with special machines described by Heron the Alexandrian: the monocles (with a spine support), the forks (with two beams), the tricolor (with Three beams) and quadrangles (with four beams). The beams worked with the pulley system.
The sea transport, which cost much cheaper, was made with trucks in which they stacked the smaller volumes, while the larger ones - to be lighter - hung them in the water by wooden beams that were supported by both two sides. One of the most important marble extraction centers in ancient Greece is Thassos. In Thassos, as the Frenchman Tony Kozelj says, one can see quarries of all time. Prehistoric, Neolithic and Archaic quarries have been identified, which are very important and at the same time as the Naxos quarries. Archaic quarries exist in Vathy, where are also the quarries of "Hercules" with inscriptions dating back to the 6th century BC. and in Pyrgos, where there is a monument: the Lighthouse of Akiratos, as well as in Aliki, where two archaic buildings have been identified, but no traces of these quarries, because they were destroyed by the later ones.
There are still traces of classical and Hellenistic quarries in Vathi and elsewhere, but many more are Roman quarries. In Roman times, the Hellenistic quarries were exploited very organized. At the quarries there were towers - outposts, where the soldiers who kept the quarries and the working slaves lived. The Romans built the quarries and settlements where the slave were working in the quarries. Later, in the early post-Christian times in these settlements, small churches were built by Christians.
An inscription was found in Aliki saying that "the worst for an sentenced for life is to get him to work in a quarry or mine on the Greek islands." In the Byzantine quarries, which is also a lot, there are incrusted crosses, but also the peacock symbolizing God. Such symbols have also been found on the fronts of Roman quarries. Later, at the time of the Ottoman domination, the Thassos quarries were not intensely worked. The situation continued until around 1920 when their modern exploitation began. Attica was another important marble extraction center. Here the quarries began to function mainly after the Persian wars. In this area the white marble of Penteli, which was considered the best, the sublime Ymittos marble of inferior quality, as well as a pointed crumbly marble in Agrileza, near Sounio, was used for the construction of the Temple of Poseidon.
The ancient quarries of the Pentelic marble were mainly located on the southwest slope of the Pentelic Mountain, in the present valley of Spilia. It is reported that there were 25 quarries where more than 400,000 cubic meters of volumes were extracted. Most traces of ancient works have been eliminated with the latest mining and only an ancient quarry is currently relatively well maintained in the Spilia valley, at an altitude of 700 meters about.
Mining in the Penteli Mountain, to a lesser extent, was also taking place in the upper parts of the Hunis valley,but possibly in other places too. The earliest use of Pentelic marble dates back to 570 BC in sculpture. In ancient Athens it was widely used in the construction of monuments during the period of Pericles, but and later in the Hellenistic and Roman times, especially in the years of Herodes Atticus, which was also the "owner" of the quarries.
Apart from the white ones, many colored marbles were mined in ancient Greece. Those who took advantage of the colored marble quarries were the Romans and later the Christians. The greenish "crocodile stone" or "green laconic marble" that was mined in the area of the ancient Municipality of Krokeon, the reddened marble of Tainaros, the "green thessaloniki or stone" (green Larissa), the Karystos - Styron marble or " , The black marble of Chios, the colorful Skyrian and the green owl of Tinos were among the most famous marbles in antiquity. These marbles, and many more, were transported over long distances, from ancient Rome to the coasts of Asia Minor, for the construction and decoration of many remarkable monuments.
The mining and use of marble continued unceasingly in Greece, with only a few breaks during Byzantine times and the times of Ottoman domination. In recent centuries, marble craftsmanship has been great in Tinos, which has not seen the Turkish yoke, like the rest of Greece. As the ethnologist - folklorist Alekos E. Florakis mentions "the origins of Tinian marble craft must be placed in the years of Venetian domination. Although most of the stone sculptures that survive belong to the 18th and 19th centuries, the beginning of acne is placed much older. Already in the 17th century, marble masters followed the builders throughout the island, building marble building members and ornamental reliefs or combining both properties, marble and the building, as evidenced by inscriptions ... ".
However, the tradition trying to interpret the roots of the Tinian arts and ignoring the truthful explanations, says that in Tinos, were taught the art of sculpture by Pheidias . When he was traveling exile to Delos, he blew so strong that he was forced to stop in Tinos. There the great creator stayed for a while and taught sculpture to the island's inhabitants.
Regardless of the reasons that prompted the flowering of the marbleart in Tinos, it is a fact that at the time when the marble sculpture in the rest of Greece was in lethargy, the Tinos continued the artistic sculptural tradition. As Sofianos says, director of the Center for the Research of Medieval and New Hellenism of the Academy of Athens, families of the whole were engaged exclusively in the art of marble, giving from father to son the experience and the artistic spirit of their ancestors.
Ever child in Pyrgos and Ysternia of Tinos, wherever he went, he was constantly listening to the dry and bold sound of the craftsmen. He saw the artisan patiently transforming the amorphous stone and making a few decorative styles. It was natural for these childhood experiences to mark their future course.
The Tinians, therefore, trained regularly in various parts of the East, Constantinople, Galatsi, Odessa, Smyrna, Thessaloniki, Mount Athos, where they were working, studying and acquiring knowledge and being constantly perfected in their art. The spirit of sculpture and the artistic tradition in general fed and maintained the vein of which the great line of Tinian artists, sculptors and painters, such as Gyzis, Lytras, Fitaleides, Vitalis, Sokos, Philippotis, Halepas and so many others.
Immediately after the release, Tinians experienced sculptors came and settled in Athens and opened the first marble workshops. First, the brothers Iakovos and Fragiskos Mavridis from Ysterna of Tinos opened in 1835 the first systematic marble craft at the crossroads of Stadiou and Korai streets, where Piraeus Bank is today. This marble masonry, unique in its time, became the first workshop where the first craftsmen came out, and later with other artists who came from the rest of Greece, the first mathematical potential of the newly founded "School of Arts" ", which was later reorganized and became the current Polytechnic School.
The activity of the Tinian marbles and artists was extended to the whole of Greece, but also to the Balkan countries. Marble bell towers, altarpiece, pulpits, monuments and all sorts of tombstones, busts, statues, all the works of the anonymous or famous Tinian marble adorn the churches, cemeteries and squares in all the cities of the free Greek state that are being created.
Europeans and Greeks architects use almost exclusively marbles of Tinos to build all the remarkable public and private buildings that adorn Athens today. In the construction of the old Palace supervisor is the practical, but perfect applicator, sculptor Ant. Lytras, father of the great painter Nikiforos Lytras from the Pirgos of Tinos. Also, marbles of Tinos work is often placed in Athens galleries, such as the University, the Museum, the Zappeion, the Hellenic Parliament, the Academy, the National Library, the Metropolis and so many others.
Apart from craftsmen of Tinos that pioneered the revival of the marble art, existed in the modern history of Greece many craftsmen from Epirus, Macedonia, Lagadia, Kalavryta and other villages the Peloponnese,who traveling throughout mainland Greece and abroad (Romania, Asia Minor, Egypt, Persia) they skillfully used the stone in the various constructions that they completed and made a serious contribution to shaping of our traditional architecture.
Folk builders, renowned folk architects, craftsmen who most did not care about their fame after death, often forgot to write their name on their creations. The man who carved the rocks, the lintels, the pilasters and the other elements of a work, was the soul of the group. His work required many years of experience in building art and some artistic sensibility, that’s why the difficult works was usually carried out by the mastermind, who besides the difficult structures, carved flowers, crosses, inscriptions, birds and other decorative symbols.
All these, the well-known and anonymous self-taught craftsmen of marble and stone, with the distinct artistic sensibility, were the people who embraced the love of marble and stone in the next generations, the people who laid the foundations for growth in our country, a modern marble industry with deep roots.
The richness of Greek land in natural decorative rocks and especially fine white marbles combined with centuries of experience in the art of mining and marble sculpture formed the basis on which the dynamic course of the marble industry was then based. A course starting at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century when the English company GRECIAN MARBLES, which systematically exploited many marble quarries in various parts of the country, made significant exports to Western Europe, which helped to make it even more famous and sought after Greek marbles around the world.