Santa Barbara Cave
San Giovanni Mine Iglesias (SU)
Site Category: Geological
In the Mountain of San Giovanni, between Iglesias and Gonnesa, various karst cycles have been responsible for the origin of one of the most beautiful natural cave systems, the oldest and most unique in Sardinia and throughout Europe is Santa Barbara Cave. Also linked to the karst processes is the blue aragonite, a typical identitary Sardinian mineral. Santa Barbara cave was accidentally discovered in April 1952 by a miner assigned to open an air hole during standard excavation work in the abandoned mine of San Giovanni, next to the "Pozzo Carolina". The cave is dedicated to St. Barbara, the patron of miners. The large natural cave, hosted at the contact between carbonate lithologies of the lower Paleozoic (Calcare ceroide and silicized yellow dolomite), is the oldest in Italy and Europe. Its origin would date back as early as the Cambrian. Still, its development would have taken place during the karst cycle of the Ordovician, which occurred over 450 million years ago, with its maximum evolution between the Permian and the Trias (about 250 million years ago). The cave is formed by a large ovoidal hall with a pond at the bottom. Santa Barbara cave has been preserved intact thanks to the difficulties of accessing the cave, which is only allowed through a spiral staircase placed inside a mine tunnel. The cave is an "unicum" in the world thanks to its brown tabular crystals of baryte walls.