Old St. Michael's Cave

Old St. Michael’s Cave: Of all the caves in Gibraltar, the most famous and frequently visited cave is St. Michael’s Cave. The site was inhabited by neolithic man, and was also known to the Romans, who gave an account of this cave. Captain Fredric Brome, who was the Governor of Prisons in 1876, carried out the first excavations and employed the prison iinmates for this task. He discovered various artefacts and implements providing an insight to man’s early presence in this cave. Further evidence of the inhabitants of this cave came when the Gibraltar Scouts discovered a neolithic earthenware pot in one of the recesses between the pillars, on a clean-up operation of the cave in the 1970s.

This cave has two natural entrances; a roof passage located above the main chamber with a drop of approx. 25m that was sealed off, for safety reasons, and the entrance, that now consists of the main exit from the cave located beside the bar and shop area. The natural entrance of the cave is extensively fractured a few metres in to the north, possibly due to the blasting that took place when building the roadway. The cave widens and slopes south steeply to open into a magnificent chamber with a splendid backdrop of columns, called the Cathedral Cave. The area immediately in front of the Cathedral Cave was converted into a stage and the slope terraced to accommodate the seating area. The roof is approx. 25m high and is covered in stalactites along the fractures in the rock. To the southwest the cave drops vertically down another 10m, across which is located a bridge leading to the visitors’ main entrance.

St. Michael’s Cave provided cover during air raids. A further exit was required during this time, so this one was tunnelled through during WWII, with a further tunnel to reach the lower level where an operating theatre was being set up. In the process New St Michael’s Cave was discovered. The passageway beneath the bridge provides spectacular views of the formations along this stretch. A section of one of the collapsed columns has been polished to reveal the beautiful structure of the rings that form this formation. Floodlights have been installed all around the cave to enhance the appearance of the structures with coloured lighting and this also provides the illumination for many of the functions that take place within this cave.

Perez, C.E. & Bensusan, K. (2005) The Upper Rock Nature Reserve, A Management and Action Plan. The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society. Gibraltar.