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Our History

The history of this beautiful area located in the archipelago of "La Maddalena" well deserves an in-depth explanation. The Caves of Cala Francese were started in 1860 after some important military fortification built during 1850 and the following years. This place, situated just near the rocky Nido d'Aquila, has an area of more than 200.000 square meters, upon which many structures, including labs, storage buildings and factories were built, together with many accomodations for the mine workers, a railway, a train station and harbour, among the other things. After the first years of primitive extraction, in 1870 the Builders Hall of Genova's Bank started an adequate mining activity based on Cala Francese's granite, while contracting many hundreds of workers from the mainland and putting in place an economical force of massive proportions.

Among those workers, the anarchists were to be found in quantity, the same people who was later responsible for the foundation of Villasimius Miners League (whose funding came from a form of self-taxation). Those men later left their mark in history for a big strike which was suppressed in a bloodbath. This sad event, had, as a direct consequence, the birth of a general protest movement, which then fomented the first italian successful national strike. But besides these happening, which now belong to history, let's go back to our mine. After just a few years after its birth, the cave passed to a new owner, from the Bank of Genova to Mr. Bertlin, an english engineer of some fame. We don't know much about him, but we can surely tell that what he lacked in terms of financial means he readily made up for with his strong commercial sense and a moltitude of wealthy friends in the capital.

In 1987, after Mr. Bertlin passed away, the mining deed switched hands again to businessmen Marcenaro and Grondona, whose company was instituted in July 1901 under the name of "Esportazione Graniti Sardi". The sardinian granite, the best in the world together with the norwegian dug, sold very well, effectively doubling the number of mine workers employed. The manufactured rock was then exported in all the mediterranean area and to the Americas. Every day the miners extracted 350 tons of granite of the best quality.

For this reason, from the granite of Cala Francese, so many important works were executed: The river basins of Taranto, Biserta, Palermo, Napoli, Genova and Venezia, the harbours of Orano, Alessandria d´Egitto, Tripoli, Porto Sudan, Caen, Genova, Venezia, Crotone, the docks of the Suez canal, and even the base of New York Statue of Liberty. As well as the pavings of such many city streets and squares (via Balbi and Corso Buenos Aires, Genova, Venice Square in Rome etc.), some bridges (Ponte Palatino and parts of the "Lungo Tevere" in Rome, Ponte Doria in Genova, Ponte sul Po in Piacenza), galleries and viaducts (Galleria Mazzini, Genova), important buildings like Palazzo della Borsa, Rome, and other buildings in Piazza de Pretis and via Duomo, Naples and so on. Noteworthy are also the monuments dedicated to the memory of D. Guzmao di Santos (Brazil), to the fallen of Arquata Scrivia, in the town of Garibaldi (in recurrence of the first hundred years from his birth) and in the public square "XXIII Febbraio della Maddalena", just to name a few.

But the most important work of the Sardinian Granite Export Society is without doubt the monumental complex raised during 1930 in Djebel Mariam (Ismailia) which is titled to the defense of Suez Canal. This monumental work is made of a huge 24 meters edge square, 2.7 meters tall, with two pillars on its top, measuring 38 meters each, and 2 winged figures at its feet, each one measuring 9 meters. The first of these figures represents a torch bearing intelligence while the other is a personification of strenght, and both are left standing on the ground to watch the destiny of a small town. All of this carved into raw granite, based on architect Michel Roux Spitz's blueprints, by the expert hand of sculptur Raymond Delamarre, also author of the preparatory drawings, who guided the best among the veteran mine workers. This resulted in a huge supply of more than 2000 cubic meters of granite, one of the biggest at the time, as recorder in various publications of the Sardinian Granite Export Society, which are our sources. When World War 2 broke, the mineral extraction activity abruptly stopped and the mines were officially closed, never to be opened again. The whole thing was left there for the curiosity of researchers and mineralogists alike. And during the course of many decades, their effort brought us, variety after variety, one of the richest collection of minerals to be found on all of the italian territory.

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