The Cathedral of St. Giorgio in Ragusa Ibla (Sicily) is one of the most important Baroque monuments of eastern Sicily. The restoration of the monument underway has put forward notable questions regarding the stone materials used and their state of degradation. The façade appears to be made mainly of a creamy white calcarenite, and of mortars and plasters. However, detailed analysis has highlighted a more complex use of the raw material. The mortar and plaster have a different composition in regards to their architectural use while the natural stone material is distinguished not only by a creamy-white calcarenite but also by a dark coloured bituminous calcarenite (pitch rock), which now appears whiter because of superficial chromatic alterations. This process was reproduced in the laboratory using an accelerated aging technique on samples of bituminous calcarenite, which allowed the cause of the alternation to be identified as photo-oxidation of the asphaltenes. Following this process of photo-oxidation, other forms of chromatic alterations affected the façade (brown-orange-coloured patinas). FTIR, Scanning Electron Microscope and thin section microscopic observation allowed the characterization of also the products of this process to be carried out, highlighting the complex mechanism which the processes underwent.
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