Roman Travertine History

October 25, 2021

In Roman times, between the second and third centuries BC, the characteristics of Roman Travertine were deeply appreciated such that it was the main stone used in ancient Roman architecture. In fact, the Greek geographer Stradone, who lived for a long time in Rome, recalled that the transport of the “Lapis Tiburtinus” (Travertine) to Rome was very easy both by land and by sea.

The Romans extracted millions and millions of cubic meters of this stone from the quarries of the Barco region. Certainly the quality of this stone, its proximity to Rome, its ease of extraction and processing and its characteristics of resistance and durability made the use of Roman Travertine very convenient.

As an alternative to Roman Travertine, monuments were erected with to tufa stone (less resistant and less workable in precision) in foundations, buildings, walls. For example, in the Tempio della Fortuna Virile (towards the end of the second century BC), the architraves were made up of flat tufa stone arches, but laid on travertine components in correspondence with the columns. Due to this architectural planning, the Temple still stands today.

Each architectural building, in fact, is the expression of the activity of men who live in a specific environment, and is fed by the nature of the material used to furnish the surroundings. Each architect chooses the materials that are most appropriate. In any case, from the first century BC, the volumetric compactness, the exalted Teutonic energy, and the contrasted and synthetic precision of the details that begin to characterize the expression of Rome, seem to be instinctively associated with the qualities of Roman Travertine. Later the use of our stone was transformed from purely utilitarian to expressive, full of specific contents and meanings, typically of Roman nature.

It is probably no coincidence that Roman Travertine appears in large public works, for civil and utilitarian purposes and serving the community; that architecture which expressed the power and efficiency of institutions, which evoked the civic sense of the ancient Romans, which embraced the needs of the life of the republic; the gates of the city, the aqueducts, the bridges, the buildings intended for shows.

The Theatre of Marcellus is an ancient open-air theatre. Locals and visitors alike were able to watch performances of drama and song. The facade and the arches are completely covered in Roman Travertine.
Ponte Sisto, the first bridge built in modern times, consisting of four arches covered in Roman Travertine. Built during the Jubilee of 1475 to connect the Trastevere district and the rest of Rome.
The Roman Travertine facade of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, contains an emblem made by Bernini. This church is one of the richest in works of art in Rome.
The Colosseum is the oldest and largest work ever made in Roman Travertine. Also known as the Flavius ​​Amphitheater, it housed the games of ancient Rome, such as the fights between gladiators.
Eleven years of work, 44,000 cubic meters of Roman Travertine, hundreds of workers employed. The Colonnades of St. Peter’s Square mark the border between Italy and the Vatican City.
The grandiose Roman Travertine gateway of Porta Pia, that gives access to the Northern part of the city, was designed by Michelangelo and later perfectioned by Bernini.

This article demontrates how Roman Travertine represented a crucial innovation in the construction techniques of the 2nd century BC. and its diffusion has been increasing over the centuries, until it has become the very symbol of the city of Rome.

Today, architects, designers and engineers, who get inspired by ancient roman architecture, use Roman Travertine to furnish buildings, resenidential projects and offices by making use of this stone. By combining modern tastes, classical architecture and innovation tools, Roman Travertine is exported globally.

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