Photos: Installation of the First New Rotunda Capital and a Look Inside

The crumbling, shrouded capitals atop the Rotunda’s columns are giving way to handsomely carved replacements of Italian marble. Take a look at the first of the new capitals and at some of the progress inside.
February 09, 2015

The first of the new capitals was installed atop a column at the University of Virginia’s Rotunda on Monday, replacing one of the 118-year-old marble capitals that were crumbling.

On Monday morning, workers placed the new capital, which weighs about 6,300 pounds and was carved from an approximately a 4-foot cube of marble mined in Carrara, Italy, in a steel box that a crane then hoisted onto a specially built trolley car. An elaborate conveyance structure allows workers from Rugo Stone, of Lorton, to maneuver the capitals into place atop each column. The columns, which are made of concrete, are approximately 25 feet tall.

A computer-controlled lathe did the first 90 percent of the carving before skilled Italian craftsmen applied the finishing touches, whittling a 9,000-pound block of marble down to the 6,300-pound finished product.

Work on the capital replacements is expected to continue through March on the south portico and then later this year to replace the six capitals on the north portico. The support structure that is currently holding up the south portico and the trolley system that moves the marble blocks will be disassembled on the south side and reassembled on the north side of the building.

The capital replacement is part of a major renovation of the Rotunda, which includes replacing the mechanical operations, installing new fire and life safety systems and creating an underground mechanical room.

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Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications