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Rusticated Stone

Rome Trip 1501

The former Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built and dedicated between 141-161 AD provides an excellent example of how Western Civilization has responded to its ancient past. After falling into disrepair, it was converted into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, strangely occupying the center cella of the old temple.

Rome Trip 1481

But at one time, as the deep gouges and champfering into the tufa blocks of stone attest, people were once searching for something within its walls. Someone realized that the Romans used molten lead poured into bracket shaped recesses during construction, locking the stones into place. An incredibly patient plunderer retrieved those valuable bits of lead, leaving the stones damaged, rough, and gnawed off on the corners. Weather and normal wear and tear also have a way of slowly rounding out the right angles of cut stone.

Rome Trip 1482

Fast forward to the Renaissance, the worn, crumbly edges of ancient Roman stonework caught the eye of architects. Mistakingly believing that the Romans had intentionally rusticated their stone blocks led these Italians to copy the stonework in their new designs.

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The Palazzo Pitti, in the Altrarno section of Florence, represents a stellar example of rusticated stone. Rustication comes from rustica, the Latin word for the countryside. Designed by either Filippo Brunelleschi or his assistant Luca Fancelli for Luca Pitti in 1457, it was later purchased and expanded by the Medici family and utilized as their third major palace complex.

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As can be clearly seen, rusticated stonework is used throughout the palace, and demonstrated that rustication can come in a variety of forms. The interior courtyard sports a more refined rustication, while also following the Colisieum’s model of the Tuscan order on the bottom floor, then the Ionic, and then the Corinthian order on the top floor.

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Back to St. Louis, and we realize that rusticated stone is everywhere, from the front basement elevation of many houses in St. Louis, to more massive, ornate structures such as the Cupples Mansion.

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Or exemplified in Union Station, which also uses rustication to great effect. As seen below, rustication was often used on the lower floor of the tower, and then smooth, cut stone takes over above the ground level.

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It’s also used in tombs, as we just saw at the Henry Bacon Tomb in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

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All in all, it’s fascinating to see how St. Louis builders continued to use this common stone finishing technique, with its ancient roots, all over the city.

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting. It also explains the reason for the “rusticated’ concrete block (aka cinder block) castings of the basement wall construction of my little 1936 Kirkwood brick house.
    Of course, that type of construction has leaked like a sieve since probably day one – but it looks better than plain block.

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