The Rock was formed by a massive upheaval of the earth about 200 million years ago. Two of the earth's plates, that form Africa and Europe, collided and a massive lump of Jurassic limestone was forced up from the sea and flipped over. The top ridge of Gibraltar was once far below the sea and is made from millions of compressed seashells.
In the ancient times, right through the age of empires and in the global conflicts of the 20th century, Gibraltar has stood guard over the western Mediterranean. Its unique position made it the focus of a continuous struggle for power. This spectacular rock monolith covers a land area of about six square kilometers and is situated at the southern tip of Spain, overlooking the strait to Africa.
For four hundred years, from the 11th century to the 15th century, Gibraltar was made a fortress by the Moors and their architecture prevailed. After the first siege, in 1309, the Spanish retook the Rock but ten sieges were to follow. Each time the Spanish or Moorish buildings were destroyed. In 1704, 1,800 English and Dutch marines landed and captured the Rock. The Rock was ceded to Great Britain by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 in perpetuity and, in 1830, the British garrison was declared a colony. In referendums held in 1967 and 2002, Gibraltarians ignored Spanish pressure and voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency.
Today Gibraltar is a surviving part of the British Empire and a Crown Colony. Its community drawn from British, Genoese, Portuguese, Spanish, Jewish, and other origins is firmly consolidated - friendly, bilingual, and in racial and religious harmony.