Stone Discoveries: Grand Antique d’Aubert

Discovery of the Quarry (Escavamar)

Discovery of the Quarry (photo: Escavamar)

It is already warm at the cusp of daybreak, and I find myself full of a familiar anticipation. I am led by my guide, Émile, into the historic Roman quarry of Grand Antique d’Aubert, a place left peaceful and undisturbed for seventy years. A proud French rooster crows in the distance as I finally behold the site, the reason for my journey: timeless; looming massive in its historical import, beauty, grandeur and storied past.

While I have ostensibly come here to procure a marble last seen almost a century ago, I am suddenly aware that I am witnessing the excavation of history. The timeless nature of the quarry and its fruits evoke a feeling of awe. I see around me the hand of God laying down layer after layer of beauty in motions that span from the beginning of time, and I hear the echoes of the distant past, the long silent rumblings of the earth spewing forth its bounty from a time before man.

Émile tells me that the Ancient Romans were the first to work the quarry and called the stone ‘marmum celticum’—Celtic marble,—and I am inspired to recall those Iron Age chieftains who once presided over this fertile region of southwestern France, some two-thousand years before it came to be known as Ariège. The Celts were among the first in history to produce steel and iron, thus pioneering that great leap forward in the development of human civilization. Similarly, here in this quarry, I am witnessing man’s incredible spirit at work. I consider the thought process of our distant relatives as they decided to dislodge this rock from the mountains which birthed it. I consider how they truly must’ve believed that nothing was impossible.

The Tomb of Joseph Napoleon

The Tomb of Joseph Napoleon

Émile explains that though this quarry has just recently been reopened after more than 70 years lying dormant, some of the great structures that this marble adorns still stand strong. The imposing statue of St. Peter at Westminster Abbey, the doleful tomb of Joseph Napoleon, the columns of the Tarbes Cathedral, the stately Diana Salon, of Louis Le Vau, in Louis XIV’s grand appartement in the palace of Versailles; the St. Louis Chapel at Les Invalides in Paris; and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

No matter how many times my work brings me to a quarry, I am freshly struck by the genius of the men who learned to live and work with the unimaginable weight and size of these blocks of stone in a time before the machinery of today allowed it to be moved about with relative ease. It occurs to me that the digging out of this marble, Grand Antique, and the incredible revitalization of this abandoned quarry is owed to more than the mere mechanics of stone quarrying: it is man’s eternal attempt to truly capture in architecture and design, the true art that is nature.

The natural stone currently on view at ABC represents only the finest rocks on Earth. Procured from 6 continents, ABC has truly moved mountains across oceans to bring the finest stone on Earth to the A&D community. I am proud of my work today… the bundle of Grand Antique slabs that I took part in purchasing is the first sold directly to the United States in 70 years. And we are honored to bring it to you.

Grand Antique closeupGrand Antique Slab

Structures incorporating Grand Antique marble:

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