Alabaster from the Carpathian Foredeep in the architecture of Cracow

Jacek Maria Rajchel, Tomasz Śliwa, Michał Wardzyński


Alabaster is a rock with low hardness, high coherence, fine-crystalline development and forms an optically “warm” surface when polished. It has been used as a sculpting, decorative and architectonic stone, often by civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea Basin. Alabaster in the architecture and sculpture of Kraków is mainly from the Middle Miocene (Badenian) and comes from deposits within the Ukrainian Carpathian Foredeep Basin, chiefly along its northern margin in the “Podolia rim”. It was quarried around the mid-part of the Dnister River and its tributaries, from Lviv (Lwów) to Khotyn (Chocim), and mostly at Zhuravno (Żurawno). The alabaster quarried here was called Ruthenian, Polish, or Lvov “marble”. Small quarries were also located at the front of the Carpathian overthrust, including the known deposit at Łopuszka Wielka. The Miocene alabaster has shades of white, yellow, green, brown, usually with differing spots or veins; often the rock is brecciated and partly semi-transparent. Alabaster has been quarried in the Polish Republic since the 16th century, peaking (also in finished stone products) between the world wars. The authors present examples of alabaster usage in ecclesiastical edifices of Kraków, for instance in the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, the churches of Dominican, Carmelite and Missionary clergy, and also in some secular buildings, e.g. the Jagiellonian Library.



Carpathian Foredeep, Miocene, architecture, Cracow, Zhuravno

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