Historic Cathedral Can Be Saved With ... Olive Oil?

Brits hope to keep York Minister from falling apart
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2013 4:02 PM CST
Historic Cathedral Can Be Saved With ... Olive Oil?
A part of York Minister cathedral.   (Shutterstock)

Nothing like a little salad dressing to rescue an 800-year-old cathedral. British scientists and archaeologists tasked with saving York Minister, a stunning cathedral in northern England, say olive oil may do the trick, NPR reports. The oil's main ingredient—oleic acid—could protect the building's stones from acid rain while allowing nasty pollutants to seep out into the air. The problem: Pollution dating back to the Industrial Revolution is causing York Minister's limestone to slowly come apart.

"The salts actually build up in the microstructure of the stone and eventually crack it, and large features will start to fall off the building," says one expert. Others have also tried to protect the medieval structure, which took 250 years to build and has already withstood lightning, fires, pillaging, and looting. An earlier experiment with linseed oil actually damaged and darkened the stone, but inspired the olive-oil idea. Experts plan to give it a go after testing is completed on sample stones. (Read more cathedral stories.)

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