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The “Belgian Blue” – One of the most popular and versatile European limestones
Belgium is famous for beer, the detective Poirot, and mussels but actually this country gave us also one of the most versatile European limestones: the Belgian Blue.
The Stone has been quarried since the early middle ages and an early example of it used in construction is the magnificent Church of St. Wadru, in Mons, built in 1450. More recently, the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels, the oldest covered shopping arcade in Europe – built in 1847 by the Dutch architect J.-P. Cluysenaer – perfectly demonstrate the high versatility of this stone, whose typical color is actually dark grey. In fact here the Belgian Blue is used in all its forms: chiselled and moulded hewn stones on the exterior façades and their reverse sides; honed and polished products for the skirting and lintels of the shop windows and sawn tiles on the floor. The monolithic columns on pedestals of the alleyways and peristyles, the lintels and circumferences of windows, the ledges, abutments and corbelling are also made of blue stone. It is interesting to note that the tiles have an almost polished appearance just because of the heavy foot-traffic inside the building.
Church of St. Wadru (Picture by Jose’ Constantino)
Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels (Picture by Audrius Meskauskas)
Thanks to its excellent technical qualities, the Belgian Blue is one of the best construction stones quarried in Europe, which can be used in all climates and, allowing many different finishes, it is perfectly suited for indoor and outdoor applications.
This rock has also been used widely in sculpture and architecture by several well known artists (e.g. Mateo Hernández, Michel Smolders, Tom Blatt, Elise Delbrassinne, Benoît Luyckx, Santiago Calatrava, among others) and for more than 300 years has enhanced the beauty of countless projects in Belgium as well as abroad.
“Hipopotamo”, made of Belgian Blue, by Mateo Hernandez in the Salamanca Museum (Picture from http://www.museoscastillayleon.jcyl.es/)
Law Courts, Bolivarplaats, Anvers, Belgium (Picture from http://www.rsh-p.com/)
The Belgian Blue, called also “Petit Granit”, is not actually a granite but a compact limestone (1). Its color, determined by the amount of organic matter present in the calcite crystals, is grey – from blue-grey to blue-black – and it becomes shiny black when the stone is polished.
The Belgian Blue has been extracted in several regions of South Belgium, especially in the Ardennes, since the Middle Ages. From the second half of the 19th century it has been used in various countries in Europe and overseas. Nowadays it is popular all over the world and in 1999 it got an Appellation d’Origine Locale (Local Appellation of Origin) designation. Around fifteen quarries are active these days and the quarrying and exportation of Belgian Blue represent an important part of the Belgian economy.
Belgian Blue quarry in Soignies, Belgium (Picture by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT)
The Belgian Blue is the best choice for many kinds of applications and it can be considered as Global Heritage Stone Resource in Europe, for both its use in construction and for artistic purposes.
(1) It has sedimentary origin, resulting from the accumulation of innumerable crinoids items (Animals living in the seabed, which have calcium carbonate skeleton), cemented into a mass of microcrystalline calcite.