St. Michael’s Cave is a natural limestone cave formed over a period spanning millions of years. The cave consists of a main cave called Leonora which you will be visiting and a lower cave simply called ‘Lower St. Michael’s’ which requires a pre-arranged guided tour in order to visit.
Legend has it that St Michael’s cave is bottomless and that the famous Rock monkeys which hang around at its entrance arrived on the Rock through tunnels that once crossed the Straits.
During Ancient Greek times, this cave was said to be one of the Gates of Hades, an entry point into the underworld. The cave is mentioned by the Greek Poet Homer and by Pomponius Mela, a Roman geographer who described Gibraltar as: “A mountain with wonderful concavities, which has its western side almost opened by a large cave which may be penetrated far into the interior.”
The Roman name for the Rock of Gibraltar was Mons Calpe, with Calpe being derived from the Phoenician words “Cala Pietra” which literally means hollow rock.
St. Michael’s Cave assumes its name from a grotto, or cave of a similar in nature to the one in Gibraltar located in Monte Gargano, in Apulia Italy, and where it is said, the Archangel Michael had appeared.
The cave was converted into an emergency hospital during the second world war, but thankfully it was never used as such.
The cave is a delight, full of stalactites and stalagmites and the largest cave, known as the Cathedral Cave, enjoying wonderful natural acoustics. For this reason, the Cathedral Cave makes the setting for a superb auditorium with a seating capacity of around 400. It has hosted events such as Miss Gibraltar beauty pageants, incredible light shows, comedy acts, ballet, drama, philharmonic and military orchestras and even rock bands.
The temperature inside the cave remains constant all year round at a cool 16 – 17 degrees Celsius.