In the 1944 Vesuvius eruption, the shallow magma chamber was disrupted during the highly energetic explosive phases. Abundant cognate xenoliths such as subvolcanic fergusites and cumulates, hornfels, skarns and rare marbles occur in tephra deposits.
Mineral chemistry, melt inclusions in minerals and glassy matrix compositions show that fergusites (highly crystalline rocks made of leucite, clinopyroxene, plagioclase, olivine, apatite, oxides and glass) do not correspond to melt compositions but result from combined sidewall accumulation of crystals, formed from K-tephriphonolitic magma resident in the chamber, and in situ crystallization of the intercumulus melt. Very low H2O contents in the intercumulus glass are revealed by FTIR and apatite composition. Whole rock compositions are essentially determined by the bulk mineral assemblages.
Glass-bearing fergusites constitute the outer shell of the magma chamber consisting of a highly viscous crystal mush with a melt content in the range 20–50 wt.%. The leucite/(clinopyroxene+olivine) modal ratio, varies with the extraction order of magmas from the chamber, decreasing upwards in the stratigraphic sequence. This reflects a vertical mineralogical zonation of the crystal mush. These data contribute to the interpretation of the subvolcanic low-pressure crystallization processes at the magma chamber sidewalls affecting alkaline potassic magmas.