Lime based wall finishes have been used for thousands of years. From the tombs of the pyramids of Giza to the Sistine Chapel, lime bases coatings have been a key ingredient in great architecture on six continents.
Lime coatings not only withstand the test of time and are unmatched in their beauty, but have significantly contributed to the the health and happiness of humanity.
The earliest lime plasters known were from 7,500 BC in Ain Ghazal in Jordan and Çatalhöyük, Turkey. They used lime mixed with unheated crushed limestone to make plaster and paint which was used on a large scale for covering walls, floors, and hearths in their homes.
Ain Ghazal in Jordan in 7,500 BC was the first discovered large scale use example of lime plaster.
Plaster often contained substantial amounts of mud or clay, marble or brick dust, or even sawdust. An array of other additives ranged from animal blood or urine, cow dung, animal hair, eggs, keratin or glue size (animal hooves and horns), varnish, wheat paste, sugar, salt, sodium silicate, alum, tallow, linseed oil, beeswax, and wine, beer, or rye whiskey. Additives, or admixtures, were usually added to enhance or modify characteristics such as curing time, plasticity, color, or volatility.
Lime mortar was uses in 4,000 BC in the construciton of the pyramids. In early Egyptian tombs, walls were coated with lime, mixed with clays, sand, and small amounts of anhydrite, known in Arabic as 'hiba'. This material was the predominant plaster used in the Valleys of the Queens and Kings and was used throughout West Bank sites.
Some of the first frescoes were painted onto lime walls in Minoan Crete in 1,700 BC. The same technique would be used on the Sistine Chapel in 1512, forever changing changing western civilization.
Around the 4th century B.C., the Romans discovered the principles of the hydraulic set of lime, where the addition of highly reactive forms of silica and alumina, such as volcanic earths, could solidify rapidly even under water. There was little use of hydraulic mortar after the Roman period until the 18th century.
Roman Pantheon using lime, volcanic ash and sand as the first 'Roman cement'
The Romans used mixtures of lime and sand to build up preparatory layers over which finer applications of gypsum, lime, sand and marble dust were applied. Pozzolanic materials were sometimes added to produce a more rapid set creating Roman cement, thus revolutionizing engineering.
Lime mortar and plaster was used Colosseum in Rome 80 AD
In ancient India and China, renders in clay and gypsum plasters were used to produce a smooth surface over rough stone or mud brick walls.
The Great Wall of China was built using mortar made from a mixture of lime and glutinous rice. Yes, rice. It acted as a pozzolan since volcanic ash was nowhere to be found in the region.
The Islamic world has a long history with lime plaster, often called Qudad or Qadad. It was widely used in interior and exterior finishes, incredible wall carving and water proofing systems known as Tadelakt.
Amiriya Madrasa built in 1504 in Tahirids, Yemen
The Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain built between 889 and 1526 is an exquisite example of plaster work. The walls are adorned with carvings and lime plaster is used throughout the interior and exterior walls. It's where Christopher Columbus received his royal endorsement from Queen Isabella to travel to the new world.
Villa Capra "La Rotanda" is a perfect example of lime plaster, inside and out. Designed by master architect Andre Palladio in 1592, it was the inspiration for Jefferson's Monticello and the White House.
Lime plaster and paint was virtually the standard wall finish in the Renaissance, throughout Italy the majority of Europe. It was an integral part of the architectural culture and art.
Medici Chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy 1524. Designed by Michelangelo. White lime plaster on the walls.
Santa Maria la Blanca in Toledo, Spain built in the early 13th century. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three religious cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle ages. Built with brick and covered with lime plaster.
In the 14th century, decorative troweled plaster, called pargeting was being used in South-East England to decorate the exterior of timber-framed buildings. This is a form of incised, molded ornament, executed in lime putty or mixtures of lime and gypsum plaster. During this same period, terracotta was reintroduced into Europe and was widely used for the production of ornament.
17th century Pargeting in Sufolk, England
In the mid-15th century, skilled Venetian workers, unable to move large marble slabs into the marshes of Venice, developed a new type of external facing, called Marmorino made by applying lime directly onto masonry. The addition of marble dust to plaster allowed the production of fine detail and a hard, smooth finish achieving the look of limestone and marble.
The lime painted town of Santorini, Greece.
Lime has been a building block of civilization. Today, Vasari takes the best elements of lime plaster and paint history and deliver them to your doorstep anywhere in the world.
Enjoy more resources of plaster history: