By the term of religious art we mean all of the objects and artifacts (both material and intangible) that are used in- and outside the places of religious worship. Common expressions of religious/ecclesiastical art are temple architecture, iconography (or hagiography), hymnology etc.
Marble in religious – ecclesiastical architecture
Marble, due to its immense strength, has been used in religious art since ancient antiquity. Whenever man wanted to express his gratitude to his God, he built monuments, churches, temples and other special places of worship, regardless of religion. Marble was the most appropriate material for this purpose. Its unique features, color, texture, durability and other physical and chemical properties make it one of the most popular materials in religious architecture to date. Even since antiquity (ancient Egypt, ancient Greece) and later on, from Byzantium to the present day, specific architectural rhythms and constructions have been developed. These are being expressed through columns, statues, tombstones, elaborate ornamentation, both in the interior and the exterior of the places of worship. In these areas, limestone rock formations (marble, limestone, granite, sandstone, etc.) are the main constituent material of their artistic constructions.
The use of marble inside the places of worship
In Europe, America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, among the holy symbols of all cultures and their places, we witness the use of marble as the most common material in the expression of religious art. In the Christian Churches (both Orthodox and Catholic), in the mosques of the East, the Pyramids of Egypt, as well as in most places of prayer all over the world, marble is applied in constructions in many forms, such as:
- Marble iconostasis, lintels and arches, pilgrimages. The iconostasis, made of carved marble, is essentially a work of art.
- Marble floors and mosaics
- Marble columns and pillars
- Marble fountains and baptisteries
- Marble carved icons and statues gilded with gold leaf
- Special marble structures (candlesticks, bishops’ thrones)
The marble in the exterior of worship places
Outside most worship spaces, marble again plays a defining role, as it is used in:
- Cladding. Modern large temples are usually lined with natural, time-resistant materials, such as split-face rocks and limestone.
- Stairways, marble railings and intricate cloisters
Marble in the private expression of religious worship
The need of humans to express gratitude and remembrance to the dear ones after death is manifested by the use of timeless marble constructions such as:
- Monuments, memorials and tomb decorations
- Tombstones with dedications
- Pilgrimages and small chapels
A similar need also arises for public figures or sacred persons, which is expressed by constructions such as:
- Busts, in honor of people whose service was rewarded by the Church or the State.
The development and application of new and innovative methods of marble and natural stone processing, such as CNC machines, combines technology with human experience to create works of art applied to the religious architecture of all cultures around the world. The timelessness of the material as well as its excellent physicochemical properties makes marble an essential material of choice in the ecclesiastical art.