Number 8
June 2020

Monuments for the Beyond.

Among the stone architecture, the mausoleums are of particular symbolic importance. Even at the dawn of civilization, the memory of the dead is expressed through the use of durable materials. This tradition, which began with archaic and Mycenaean burial mounds, reaches as far as nineteenth-century and contemporary cemeteries, where stone and marble allude to imperishable memory.

It is precisely the monumental tombs of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that have seen the greatest sculptors try their hand at techniques and styles that have made art history itself. Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova: almost a challenge to transform the funeral theme into a vital impulse.

We owe to a great architect from Brescia, Rodolfo Vantini (1792-1856), the invention of the monumental Holy Fields. Inspired by the poetics of Ugo Foscolo’s Sepulchres and Canova’s style, the designer imagined a “city of the dead” in Botticino stone. Combining neoclassical aesthetics with romantic sensibility, Vantini entrusted architecture and sculpture with a common celebratory goal, which later became the model for all European cemeteries. He also paved the way for a large number of artists and marble craftsmen, contributing to the diffusion of a local tradition: from simple tombstones to the most complex plastic ornamentation.

It was in this furrow that Ghirardi Marmi’s activity was born in 1938, later exported overseas thanks to a consolidated artisan expertise. The executive quality of the manufactured articles, combined with fine materials and artistic sensitivity, is combined with a reference to the naturalistic values of American culture. Examples are the Raleigh Memorial Park in North Carolina and the Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth (Texas). But the list extends to many other mausoleums made by Ghirardi Marmi in Florida, California, Michigan, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee. The European typology of academic origin finds a new balance within the picturesque conception of parks, open spaces and the rhythm of the seasons. Even the mournful dimension acquires a meaning that blends the work of man with the world of nature, entrusting the stone with the task of leaving an indelible testimony.

Raleigh Memorial Park, NC
Raleigh Memorial Park, NC
Raleigh Memorial Park, NC
Raleigh Memorial Park, NC
Raleigh Memorial Park, NC
Rosso Verona,
rosso d’amore.
Since ancient times Rosso Verona has been used as material for monumental architecture of that Venetian city (Verona). The famous Arena and the Roman gates are the first evidence of local use that became more and more widespread and culminated in the Middle Ages with the churches of San Zeno, San Fermo and Sant’Anastasia, and then with the Scaliger Arche and the Loggia del Consiglio.
From Verona, this limestone spread widely throughout the Po Valley: in Bergamo, Brescia, Parma, Bologna, Padua and Venice, important buildings from the Romanesque and Gothic periods stand out, where the intense chromaticism reflects the aesthetic values of an urban and noble culture. Even in those days, the warm shades made Veronese limestone unique, especially in the alternating white stone courses – the so-called striation – and in the laying of large flooring surfaces. Even today the image of the church interiors is accompanied by the classic alternation of small squares or lozenges to come celebrated by Palladio.
Not only a construction element, Rosso Verona became a precious material for sculpture and plastic decoration. So for the rosettes, stylish lions, in the sarcophagi, the statues, the baptismal fonts, the balconies. A second characteristic that made Rosso Verona famous, is namely the presence in the limestone paste of Ammonites (more or less large fossil volute shells), which were symbolically interpreted as a manifestation of the magic of nature and its mysticism. Leonardo (da Vinci) was also fascinated by them.

Extracted from the Lessini Mountains, Rosso Verona is the undisputed protagonist of a long series of modern and contemporary architecture; suffice it to mention the works of Carlo Scarpa, who exalted its chromaticism almost in a Byzantine and “lagunare” style. More recently, the restoration of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, conducted by Rem Koolhas with OMA, sees the reinterpretation of the typical striation in the atrium as a dizzying optical texture.

Marmi Ghirardi’s creations with Rosso Verone are numerous, especially religious architecture and interior design. These include the church of St. Stephen in East Grand Rapids (Michigan, USA), where the liturgical artifacts are translated into a highly poetic sequence, thanks to the refined craftsmanship and the symbolic value of the individual artifacts: the Eucharistic altar, the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, the ambo, the baptismal font and the decorative inserts on the flooring. In the recent Brasserie Chavot in London Rosso Verona becomes one of the protagonists of the mosaic on the floor: a real carpet that welcomes the public as if inside a noble residence.

The Colors of the Sacred.

Roman Catholic Church of St. Stephen

East Grand Rapids, Michigan – USA

In continuance of the issue about Marble 7, in the “Architecture of God”, the claim is made that the imprint of the human hand in sacred art and architecture is unto itself, the evocation of the Incarnation theology of the church – as an extension of creation:

“This prime epiphany of “God who is Mystery” is both an encouragement and a challenge to Christians, also at the level of artistic creativity. From it has come a flowering of beauty which has drawn its sap precisely from the mystery of the Incarnation. In becoming man, the Son of God has introduced into human history all the evangelical wealth of the true and the good, and with this he has also unveiled a new dimension of beauty, of which the Gospel message is filled to the brim…The Council held at Nicaea in 787 decreed if the Son of God had come into the world of visible realities—his humanity building a bridge between the visible and the invisible— then, by analogy, a representation of the mystery could be used, within the logic of signs, as a sensory evocation of the mystery. The icon is venerated not for its own sake, but points beyond to the subject which it represents”.
– St. John Paul II – “Letter to Artists” (1999).

The partnership of the artist-architect and craftsman is one in expression. St. John Paul II continues in his letter
“The opening page of the Bible presents God as a kind of exemplar of everyone who produces a work: the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator. This relationship is particularly clear in the Polish language because of the lexical link between the words stwórca (creator) and twórca (craftsman)”.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council called sacred art and architecture: the “summit” of religious art, did not hesitate to consider artists as having “a noble ministry”.
As a form of praise in itself, the at the hands of architect David B. Meleca, FAIA and the “Italian Stone Maestro”, Ghirardi, formed a collaboration in response to this call of the church, to create this “frozen music”, (‘Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).

Forms that were organically inspired from the traditions of sacred art and architecture throughout the millennia emerged from natural materials that were given their color, texture and densities from the womb of the earth millions of years ago. Much of the natural stone was extracted from the Italian regions of Carrera, Veneto, Aosta and Lombardia and hand crafted, in our factory in Carpenedolo – “Made in Italy”.

The united hand of architect and craftsman negotiated what took form in the “minds’ eye” into the reality of stone. Virtual and actual models of key forms were visualized and actually crafted into mock-ups for the final results.

The altars of the Eucharist and Repose of the Blessed Sacrament, ambo, and baptistery were hand crafted fit and finished, inlays and assemblies were dry-laid to assure the installers’ hands and labors would guarantee the final collaborative art as truly becoming its intent. Of course, there is nothing like visiting the beauty of the quarry and workshop to smell, taste, hear and feel “la Bella Italia”, no factory visits were actually required, even in the pre-COVID 19 world, where great partnerships can complete each other’s sentences. It’s because of experiences like this (of many), just one cited here that Ghirardi has evolved its Virtual Rooms. So, the discourse between architect/artist/craftsman over the millennia has not really changed, except it will be better than ever – that’s our ultimate vocation!!



East Grand Rapids,
Michigan – USA

Architectural design

David B. Meleca, FAIA


Stone contractor

Ghirardi team

Rosso Verona

Bianco Carrara

Verde Alpi

Dark Emperador

Giallo Atlantide

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