Unique and award-winning - Rochlitz porphyry in demand as a building material

The Rochlitz porphyry is unique in the world. It still plays a role as a building material, and not only in Saxony. In the quarry, however, people are worried about the shortage of labor.

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Man sieht einen Porphyrblock.
An employee of the Rochlitz Porphyry Manufactory saws a block of porphyry with a stone saw. © Jan Woitas/dpa

Rochlitz. For a stone from the Saxon province, the Rochlitz porphyry have come a long way. The Lion Monument at Bayer-Werke in Leverkusen, the Fertility Fountain in Berlin, Immanuel Kant's grave in Königsberg (Kaliningrad) - they are all made of the reddish volcanic stone. Last year, an international award as "Heritage Stone" brought new attention. Nevertheless, the head of Rochlitz Porphyry Manufactory, Klaus Kalenborn, has some worries.

Demand and sales are actually good, and delivery times are long, says the 64-year-old managing director. "We have orders right into the spring." Blasting takes place four times a year in the quarry on the Rochlitz mountain, after which the blocks weighing several tons are processed in the plant. One-third each of the Rochlitz porphyry goes to the gardening and landscaping sector, the gravestone and monument sector, and the construction sector, Kalenborn says.

Old quarrying techniques in the quarry still bear witness to history: since 2022, the Rochlitz porphyry has been allowed to call itself a "Heritage Stone". The stone is the first German natural stone to receive this award.© Jan Woitas/dpa

What the stone has going for it is its uniqueness: it exists only once in the world. The Rochlitz mountain was once a volcano. Its ash sedimented and was "baked together" to form the Rochlitz porphyry tuff. The stone is about 300 million years old. It can be worked well and is extremely weather-resistant, says Kalenborn.

800 tons of porphyry are mined every year

"We don't have the demand problem. We have the problem of maintaining efficiency," says the company boss. Like many other entrepreneurs, he complains about a shortage of workers. Including him, the porphyry factory currently has five employees. Eight would be desirable; there used to be 18. Accordingly, production has also declined - from 2,000 tons in 1996 to 800 tons currently. "More is not possible," says Kalenborn. Employees are hard to find. Outdoor work in wind and weather is simply not attractive.

A special title has put the Rochlitz porphyry in the spotlight again. Since 2022, it has been allowed to call itself a "Heritage Stone", chosen by the International Union of Geological Sciences. The porphyry tuff is the first German natural stone to receive this award. It now stands in a row with the Italian Carrara marble and various stones from the USA, India or South America. "This award is something that has value geologically-touristically," says Kalenborn.

Even more enthusiastic sounds the Mayor of the city of Rochlitz, Frank Dehne. "Rochlitz porphyry is our flagship," says the non-party town leader. Not only is the local castle built with porphyry, but many houses in the small town in central Saxony also have window lintels or steps made of the characteristic stone. Rochlitz has never counted the buildings with porphyry, Dehne said. "But it is, of course, very present in the region."

Inspired by the award for their stone, the people of Rochlitz want to bring it even more attention. The city council recently decided that the porphyry should appear on the yellow town signs. Instead of "Große Kreisstadt" it should say "Stadt des roten Porphyrs" in the future. An application has been submitted to the Ministry of the Interior, says Dehne. The mayor is also thinking aloud about establishing a large stonemasonry symposium in Rochlitz. National and international stone sculptors are to create works there - of course from Rochlitz porphyry. However, says Dehne, this is "not quite ready for discussion yet". (dpa)

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