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The Chapel Inside a Volcano

Santa Margarida is a freato-magmatic volcano located in the Spanish county of Garrotxa, in Catalonia. Some 11,500 years ago, the earth’s crust burst opened and out poured millions of tons of magma, that accumulated in a conical hill more than six hundred meters tall. At the top of this hill a wide circular crater was formed, whose floor today is carpeted with thick grass and shrubs while the flanks of the volcano are covered in evergreen holm oak and mixed deciduous forest. Amidst this, and smack in the middle of the crater today, stands a Romanesque church.

Not much is known about the hermitage of Santa Margarida, after which the volcano was named, except that the building was destroyed during the 1428 Catalonia earthquake, suggesting it was first built at least 600 years ago. The current building is from 1865.

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Aerial view of Santa Margarida volcano. The building of the hermitage sits inside the crater. Photo credit: Carquinyol/Wikimedia

The Garrotxa volcanic field (also known as the Olot volcanic field) of which Santa Margarida is a part, is situated approximately 90 kilometers to the north of Barcelona. The field consists about forty volcanic cones, none of which are active, with the last eruption occurring about 11,000 years ago. Unlike most volcanoes which erupt repeatedly, the Garrotxa field is a monogenetic volcanic field where each volcano erupts only once. The region is still seismically active and occasional jolts of earthquake are felt in the region. The 1428 earthquake was exceptionally large causing damage to many buildings and twenty deaths in Barcelona, 90 kilometers away.

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The crater of the Santa Margarida Volcano. Photo credit: nito/Shutterstock

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Photo credit: Rafel Miro/Flickr

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Photo credit: raul2010/Flickr

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Photo credit: Santi Nunez Fulcara/Shutterstock

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