Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell'Abbadessa
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Home » Nature and Territory » Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell'Abbadessa » Protected Area » History and Landscape

Ancient and more recent quarries

Gypsum has been widely used since prehistoric times, as evidenced by the traces of extraction and processing activities at the Calindri Cave. In Roman times, it was also used for construction purposes. In fact, Bologna's 3rd century walls are made of selenite.

The use of gypsum as a building material continued during the Middle Ages and the bases of some towers in Bologna were made from large blocks of selenite stone. Even in numerous historic buildings within the park, including farmers' modest dwellings, there are sections of walls and inserts in selenite.

The use of baked gypsum as a quick-setting material and plaster mixture was developed in the XIII century. The chalk outcrops began to be systematically excavated to obtain freestone, later partially substituted with the use of sandstone, but, above all, the chalk was extracted to be baked and ground into powder.

Towards the end of the last century, the many small family-run quarries gave way to mechanized activities and, after the war, to industrial-scale operations, taking a very heavy toll on the environment.

Many caves were destroyed, whereas mining activities in other caves irrevocably compromised their stability conditions (such as at the Farneto Cave).

A tough battle began in the 1960s to halt quarrying activities: the speleological groups in primis, the Bologna Naturalists' Association and the Municipality of San Lazzaro succeeded in their intent only in the late 70s, when the territory had already been severely scarred.

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