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Carving History: The Carrara Quarry

ROME, Italy – This time of year, we are surrounded by our beautiful snow-capped mountains. When the people who live outside Florence, Italy look at their mountains, it’s not snow they see, but marble!

News Specialist Carole Mikita recently traveled there to bring us the fascinating story of the connection between the centuries old quarry where Michelangelo chose his marble and where artisans today did the same for the Christus and 12 Apostles statues in the Rome Italy Visitors Center.

As we drove from Florence northwest, further into Tuscany and closer to the coast, we were amazed. The first time you realize what you are looking at, it’s jaw-dropping.  The white on the mountains is marble! – The finest in the world. Carrara marble has inspired some of the world’s greatest art.

The city of Carrara is nestled in the Apuan Mountain range in Tuscany. Living and working there still inspires the residents, most of whom work in the quarry.

Giacomo Massari is co-owner and manager of the Carrara Workshop. “When I see the blue of the sky and this marble, this white stone that stands in front of it, it’s very exciting.”

Buildings created from the marble date back to Ancient Rome – the Pantheon is made of it. Michelangelo chose it to create the Pieta in 1499. And from the same marble, the statue of David in 1504.

Bertel Thorvaldsen, the renowned Danish sculptor, spent most of his career in Rome and from Carrara marble created the statue of Christ and his 11 original Apostles and Paul in the 1830s. They grace the sanctuary of the national cathedral, The Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen.

Over the years, Latter-day Saint Church leaders have commissioned copies of the Christus including the one on Salt Lake’s Temple Square and one which stands in the garden of the Paris, France temple. And now, Christ and the 12 stand at the entrance to the Rome, Italy Visitors Center – made of that same marble.

But no matter the artist, the inspiration came from high on these mountains. Harvesting this precious material is both challenging and a privilege. And as stunning as the site is, there is a fascinating story of those who work there – their love for, the attachment to the quarry through the generations. Giacomo Massari said here it is as if time has stood still.

“The excavation, processing, hand-finishing, sculpture, that are working here, could be the same as was working 500 years ago from Michelangelo.”

And he told us that for the Church’s commission of Christ and the Apostles, only the finest of Carrara marble would do. “Exactly from there, Michelangelo took his marble.”

From Michelangelo Carrara marble, the artisans in the studio, crafted Christ and the Apostles. Heather Evertsen who created the Classic Carrara Tour said, “They don’t just allow anyone to buy it.  They need to vet them and understand that it’s going to be valued.”

Americans Heather and Dave Evertsen have lived with their six children in Florence for 10 years. Their son, Bronson, now studies sculpture at one of the city’s finest art schools. Heather decided to get to know the people at the Carrara Quarry. “It was an emotional experience. But I looked around and I realized, gosh, there’s really not much organized for tourism or to ask questions or to learn what’s going on here.”

So, she created Classic Carrara Tour and our guide a well. Our group piled into two jeeps and began the climb up the marble mountain. The scenery is both spectacular and unbelievable. “I can show people from beginning to end what it takes to create a masterpiece like the David.”

Bronson Evertsen said he has been transformed while working with this marble. “It’s definitely been an experience, that’s changed me as a person and sculpted me, if you will, you know, into the person that I am.”

The young sculptor being sculpted himself. He shared with us how the marble inspired the world’s great artist. “It’s the purest and it’s the most ideal for statuary and that’s what characterizes Carrara marble – beauty in its purity and how white and how clean it looks and how much it replicates the look of the flesh and beauty of the human body.”

From the marble mountains to the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to the Christus and the 12 Apostles at the Visitors Center of the Rome Italy temple, Giacomo Massari and his team spent a long time with the statues. “We were getting used to having these beautiful sculptures in the workship, so when they left, we were quite sad!  But, in the end, when I went to the temple and I saw then in their new venue, I was… stunning!”

Centuries after Michelangelo – only the finest of this precious material would do for this pure, artistic statement of faith.

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