Natural cement and stone restoration of Bourges Cathedral
Natural cement, called "Roman" cement, was invented at the end of the 19th century and played an important role in the development of civil engineering works until the 1860s. More surprisingly, it was also used to restore historic buildings, such as gothic cathedrals. This paper deals with the mineralogy and the durability of natural cement in the particular case of the Bourges Cathedral in France. This study illustrates the interest of this material particularly adapted in stone repair or substitution. Contrary to traditional mortars, the present samples are made of neat cement paste, revealed by the absence of mineral additions as quartz or carbonate sand. Several combined techniques (SEM-EDS, TGA, XRD) were carried out to determine the composition of the hydraulic binder rich in calcium aluminate hydrates. The raw marl at the origin of the cement production contains oxidized pyrites which consist in a potential source of sulphate pollution of the surrounding limestone. The exposition of the cement in urban environment leads to some weathering features as atmospheric sulfation. Finally a petrophysical approach, based on water porosity, capillary sorption and compressive strength, has been performed to demonstrate the durability and the compatibility of natural cement applied as an historical building restoration mortar. © 2008 RILEM.