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Episodes 2024; 47(1): 53-64

Published online March 1, 2024


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Red pyterlite from Virolahti in southeastern Finland: a unique heritage stone with a classic rapakivi texture applied in historic and modern architecture

Paavo Härmä1*, Olavi Selonen2

1Geological Survey of Finland, P.O. Box 96, FI-02151 Espoo, Finland
2Åbo Akademi University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Geology and Mineralogy, FI-20500 Turku, Finland

Correspondence to:*E-mail: paavo.harma@gtk.fi

Received: June 5, 2023; Revised: August 1, 2023; Accepted: August 1, 2023

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The red pyterlite of Virolahti is a rapakivi granite from the large Mesoproterozoic Wiborg rapakivi granite batholith of southeastern Finland, with the typical and exclusive appearance of the rapakivi texture and with good quality as a natural stone. The extraction of Virolahti pyterlite began on a large scale during the late 1700s for the construction of the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. During the 1700s and 1800s, the pyterlite was extensively used in St. Petersburg in applications such as building foundations, river embankments, street paving, fortress structures and decorative stone. The most famous objects constructed from the pyterlite are the monolith of the Alexander Column and the columns of St. Isaac's Cathedral. Virolahti pyterlite has been widely extracted in the Virolahti area, and a total of over one million cubic metres were exported to St. Petersburg. The pyterlite is an important part of history, as the objects in which the stone has been applied in St. Petersburg belong to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, Virolahti pyterlite is extracted under the commercial name Carmen Red. The stone has been marketed and exported for use in several applications around the world, especially in countries of the Far East and Europe. Among the modern objects constructed using the pyterlite are numerous façades of skyscrapers, including the Central Daily Newspaper Building in Seoul, Korea, and the Arco Tower in Los Angeles, USA. The pyterlite area is still important in the natural stone market, and over a wider area than only Finland. Virolahti pyterlite meets all the criteria for designation as a Heritage Stone presented by the IUGS Subcommission on Heritage Stones. It has been applied in significant works (in a UNESCO World Heritage Site), used in large quantities in highly valuable architectural objects and quarried from 126 historical quarries. It is a focus of development for tourism infrastructure, has wide geographical use and a prolonged cultural history, and is still extracted from 11 present quarries, with global applications. Hence, we will later begin the procedure to propose Virolahti pyterlite as a candidate for designation as a Heritage Stone.