Spanish geologists propose the quarries of Berroqueña Granite for the list of „Global Heritage Stone Provinces“

The Royal Palace in Madrid is one of the many buildings worldwide clad with the Spanish granite „Berroqueña Stone“. Photo: Superchilum / Wikimedia Commons

The label by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) shall help to promote stone with high cultural importance

The Puerta de Alcalá, the Prado Museum and the monastery of El Escorial are some of the monuments built with berroqueña stone, the traditional name of the high-quality Madrid granites which are also used in modern airports and shopping centres around the world.

As with renowned wines and cheeses Spanish geologists now propose to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) that these granites should become part of the list of natural stones with designation of origin because of their cultural and economic importance.

The IUGS has created the Global Heritage Stone Province (GHSP) distinction to recognize those provinces or regions of the world where stones of great historical and economic importance are extracted.

This geological recognition is similar to the designations of origin for food and drinks or the discussed Geographical Indications for natural stone (see link below).

One of the first candidate regions for the award is the extraction area of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, producer of the traditionally named „berroqueña stone“, the stone material most used historically in Madrid (Spain). Monuments such as as the monastery of El Escorial, the Royal Palace, Puerta de Alcalá, the National Library, the Almudena Cathedral, the Bank of Spain, the Puerta del Sol square and the Reina Sofia Museum are built with this granite.

„The aim of the candidacy is to achieve international recognition of the granite quarries of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, so important in cultural heritage, to enhance their production and export,“ states David M. Freire-Lista, researcher at the Institute of Geosciences (a joint centre of the CSIC and Complutense University of Madrid) and promoter of the project. The details are published in the journal, Geoscience Canada.

The Alpedrete, Zarzalejo and Colmenar Viejo quarries are the ones that have traditionally provided this stone, although in recent years they have been joined by Cadalso de los Vidrios and La Cabrera. Production increased steadily from the 1980s until 2008 when an economic crisis that has adversely affected the sector began.

„Achieving the Global Heritage Stone Province accreditation for this region would promote trade in this historically important and sought-after material, promoting employment in rural areas of the Sierra de Madrid mountains, where the supply is guaranteed by the extensive reserves of high quality and durable granite. I hope that after this candidacy, this region will be nominated for this distinction,“ said Freire-Lista.

In 2016, the Spanish region nominated as GHSP is the Iberian Roofing Slate Province.

In addition to the Global Heritage Stone Province, the IUGS has also created another category called Global Heritage Stone Resource (GHSR), which recognizes specific building stones used in heritage and which have a potential to be marketed internationally.

In 2015 the stone from Portland (England), which was used to build Buckingham Palace in London and the United Nations building in New York, became the first stone to be declared a Global Heritage Stone Resource.

Alpedrete granite from Sierra de Guadarrama is nominated for the upcoming 2016 GHSR designation together with other national nominated, such as Villamayor stone from Salamanca, Verde Granada serpentine, and others international candidates, such as Pietra Mar del Plata (Argentina); Sydney sandstone (Australia); marble from Carrara, Pietra Serena and Rosa Beta granite (Italy); Dala (?lavaen) porphyries, Hallandia gneiss and Kolmarden Serpentine marble (Sweden); Larvikete (Norway); Lede stone and Petit granit (Belgium); Steatite and Schist from Minas Gerais State (Brazil); Estremoz marble and Oporto granite (Portugal) and Podpec limestone from Slovenia.

Full details:
D. M. Freire-Lista, R. Fort. „The Piedra Berroqueña Region: Candidacy for Global Heritage Stone Province Status”. Geoscience Canada 43: 43-52, 2016.

D. M. Freire-Lista, R. Fort, M. J. Varas-Muriel. „Alpedrete Granite (Spain). A Nomination for the „Global Heritage Stone Resource” Designation”. Episodes-Journal of International Geoscience 38(2): 106-113, 2015.

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(27.05.2016, USA: 05.27.2016)