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Abstract

Most monuments and buildings in the Maltese Islands are constructed of the local Globigerina Limestone. Today, this Globigerina Limestone shows considerable damage in many buildings, particularly through alveolar weathering, which is frequently very intense. Owing to Malta's marine environment, salt crystallization in the stone's pore spaces has been recognized as the main weathering process responsible for the deterioration of the country's monuments. In order to obtain more information on the fabric-dependent weathering processes of Globigerina Limestone, detailed analyses were carried out. Globigerina Limestone samples obtained from stone types with two different known qualities were characterized according to petrographical, geochemical and physical properties. These included porosity, pore radii distribution and tensile strength, as well as water and humidity transport properties. Investigations by means of salt crystallization tests on quarry samples of both stone types reinforced the idea that the extent of salt weathering depends on salt type and concentration and pore-space properties. Visible weathering damage was recorded and evaluated for a representative monument (the Church of Santa Marija Ta' Cwerra in Siggiewi) by means of a monument mapping method, which was carried out twice over a period of 9 years (1995 and 2004). The identified weathering forms were also correlated with a previously developed weathering model for Globigerina Limestone. According to the results of the mapping, salt analyses carried out on samples from the church and salt-loading tests on quarry samples, there exists a significant correlation between visible damage and salt load. The zoning of weathering damage is obviously related to different salt concentrations. The zone with severe weathering damage is characterized by a high concentration of halite. Consequently, salt weathering represents the main damage process for the Globigerina Limestone of Malta.

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