Geography: Santa Pau is located in the south-east of the comarca of La Garrotxa and right in the centre of the valley formed by Finestres and Sant Julià del Mont ranges. It is the place where the river Ser is born. It flows until meeting river Fluvià, which comes from Olot and Castellfollit de la Roca, on the other side of Sant Julià. It is part of a historic path which goes from Olot to Banyoles, going through Mieres and Sant Miquel de Campmajor. It is a very rich area, both geologically and geographically. There we can find volcanoes, mountains, valleys, rivers, etc.
History: There are records of Santa Pau as a name since 878, well over 1000 years ago! By the end of the 13th century Santa Pau barony was created and the baron started to live in the castle. This propelled the building process of houses, squares and walls around it, as they provided safety and to the people. One of these was the Main Square, earlier called Firal dels Bous, since it was the place where farmers gathered on market days. Its arches show the evolution of the rural Catalan Gothic throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, and were a good shelter in case of rain. The Remences, and many centuries later the Carlins, went through Santa Pau, a fact which takes us to the strategic situation of the village. These routes will show us a history filled with battles coming down from the mountains to assault the village and turn it into a strong setting. As you can see, Santa Pau’s history is long, since the first volcanoes up to these days.
The Volcanoes: A volcano is a place where the rocky and liquid substance found inside the Earth comes out. It is usually caused by the movement of the tectonic plates during millions of years, which are usually produced near those plates. When the eruption takes place, its intensity may vary, which results in volcanoes of different shapes. If we add the fact that each volcano is a different age, we can have some hints related to the diversity of shapes volcanoes have these days. In Catalonia we can find other volcanic areas and; we have some nearby such as the ones in the comarca of La Selva and Empordà. However, it is in La Garrotxa where we can find the greatest diversity and number of volcanoes, and where they are better preserved. In fact, one of the volcanoes was active just 10000 years ago.
La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park: It was in the 19th century when Francesc Xavier de Bolòs discovered, studied and spread the volcanic richness of La Garrotxa. Since then, people became more aware of this geological richness. As a result, it was sometimes used carelessly. From the second half of the 20th onwards, this heritage and its preservation started to be valued in the country. It was the time when the first conservation laws appeared and when the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park was created, during the eighties from the last century. Inside the Natural Park’s zone there are more than 42 volcanic cones. They are the youngest volcanic signs in the whole Iberic Peninsule, since they first appeared 350,000 years ago. The one in the comarca of Empordà, for example, dates from 10 million years ago, and so they are 30 times older. Geologically speaking, some are very recent as well. All the volcanoes in the area are not active, but not extinct either, since in the future they may become active again. In fact, it is believed that some of the volcanoes may erupt between the years 2000 and 3000, a very long period of time for us, although very short in terms of geology. All the volcanoes from La Garrotxa are monogenetic, that is to say, volcanoes which are created from only one eruption. If there was a new eruption another volcano would be created. One of the most characteristic, well-known and visited volcanoes is Santa Margarida. Its cone of 300 metres in diameter has got a round shape and it is 600 metres high. The crater’s hole is between 40 and 70 metres deep. The fact of having such a characteristic shape, a beautiful hermitage inside the crater and its easy access, make it one of the most visited in the park. Another iconic volcano is Croscat. It is extremely high: more tan 160 metres from the ground, and, together with La Pomadera, it is one of the youngest in the whole Iberic Peninsule, being between 7,000 and 11,000 years old. Its eruptions occurred in three phases, the last of which gave it its actual horseshoe shape. It was in this phase when lava covered the southwest area, where nowadays we find La Fageda d’en Jordà. It must be also considered that in the comarca of La Garrotxa there have been villages since millenniums ago. In the Barroca scarps there is the most ancient proof of human presence in the comarca, and we also know there was human presence in the Middle Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. Therefore, human beings might have been present during the volcanic eruptions from these time periods. What we know for sure is that the eruptions, the type of soil and the holography determined the subsequent occupation of the land, like it is happening these days.