Incrustation (architecture)

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Geometric incrustations on the gable of the St Julien priory church in Chauriat , Auvergne

Incrustation (from latin crusta [ marmoreae ] "[marble] shell") refers to the architecture of the large area or even partially covering walls or other components (minor material) with flat-cut, usually different colored marble slabs. The incrustation is a form of polylithy .


The art of facade cladding was already highly developed by the Romans . The overall effect was based primarily on the extensive use of differently colored, mostly valuable types of rock, which came from all Roman provinces around the Mediterranean. Red porphyry , the most precious of all stones, came exclusively from Egypt , green porphyry, also called serpentine , from Laconia , green-veined serpentine from Thessaly , white marble from Carrara , yellow marble ( giallo antico ) from Simitthu in Tunisia , or ivory-colored onyx from Hierapolis in Phrygia .

The art of incrustation was continued in the Byzantine Empire after the fall of the Roman Empire ; in the west, however, the skills were forgotten.

It was not until the Proto-Renaissance after 1000 that this type of wall facing was brought to a new bloom, especially starting from Florence ( Baptistery of San Giovanni , San Miniato al Monte ). In the 12th century, they are found in France above all in the regional Auvergnatian building school of the Romanesque (e.g. Collegiate Church Notre-Dame du Port in Clermont-Ferrand or the priory church of St-Julien in Chauriat ), but also in some southern French churches (e.g. at the Église Saint-Pierre-de-Rhèdes in Lamalou-les-Bains ). In Italy, wall coverings of this type remained very popular in the subsequent art historical epochs of the Renaissance ( Santa Maria Novella ) and ( Dom Santa Maria del Fiore ) or the Baroque. If the money for a stone cladding was not available, it was not infrequently faked by stucco or wall painting.


The manufacture of the marble cladding, which was often only centimeter thick, was extremely difficult and therefore expensive in ancient times. To make the thin marble slabs, a groove was first chiseled in the upper part of the marble block and this was then filled with sand; a thin plate was then sawn off with the help of a rope or a saw blade. Only about five centimeters could be sawed in this way per day. Smaller polished stone pieces were mainly made by grinding .


To attach panels to the wall, dowel holes were first drilled into the wall, which were used to hold metal hooks. The panels were placed on these hooks from bottom to top and the cavities behind them were filled with plaster or mortar . This technique was unsuitable for smaller ornaments; they were glued to the wall parts like a mosaic or inserted into the existing masonry.

Image examples


Probably inspired by Byzantine models, the Indian builders - who often came from Persia - created a large number of flat, geometric, and later extremely small-scale floral stone encrustations (e.g. Lodi Gardens , Humayun) , especially during the time of Mughal architecture -Mausoleum , Itimad-ud-Daula-Mausoleum , Taj Mahal ). In other regions of Islamic architecture ( Morocco , Turkey , Iran, etc.) decorative wall coverings were made using tile mosaics (e.g. Medersa Attarine , Fès ).

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