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Sanctuary Las Lajas
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-01-27 16:59:06 | Ipiales, Narino, Colombia
Keywords: , attraction, church
My last stop in Colombia was to visit a spectacular church. I do visit churches along the way, especially cathedrals in national capitals, by curiosity for architecture, but I never report about them. This church however is special, because of the architecture and its incredible location. It's a fairly new church, completed in 1949, but its setting at the bottom of a narrow valley is spectacular. The location also had some other churches for more than 250 years now.

The Sanctuary of Las Lajas is a church totally financed by the local church goers and it was built at the location of an apparition of the Virgin Mary of the Rosary by an indigenous mother and her daughter in 1754. Since they were trying to protect themselves from a storm using the large slabs of rocks coming out from the sides of the canyon, the place was named Las Lajas (the slabs).

Right after the apparition, people began to come to that place and a chapel, then a church was built. A century ago, they began a campaign to finance the very impressive church presently in place (began construction in 1916. By visiting the area, you can only admire the importance of the work done, especially considering the location!

Aerial front view of the church.

The construction is over 100 m (330 feet) high in total considering the bridge and the church. The bridge is half of that height and is a remarkable achievement by itself. As you go down the access ramp to reach the church mid-way to the canyon, you pass by thousands of plaques thanking the Virgen for miracles and curing illnesses.

The church is located about 7 km from the border city (with Ecuador) of Ipiales, and it's probably the only reason to stop in Ipiales besides trying cuy (barbecued guinea pig) instead of going through the border directly. Transportation is very easy with collective taxis leaving the Ipiales bus terminal.

Besides the impressive interior of the church and its surroundings (with many waterfalls), you can also go below the church and visit a museum. Part of the museum explains the construction of the church and the rest is about the indigenous people of the area, mostly before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The church received the denomination of sanctuary in 1951, giving it a special status within the Catholic church. It was also declared national treasure by the Colombian government in 1984. In 2007, a survey from a Colombian newspaper classified it as 2nd of the 7 wonders of Colombia (#1 being the Cathedral of salt, which I visited around Bogotá in December).

I don't know if it will be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. It's not on the tentative list so far, maybe a campaign for that will be started next year with the centenary. Although it is an impressive construction, I'm not sure it has enough distinction to make the list. I guess it will all depend on how the Colombian government makes the case to the UNESCO.

Some of the grateful plaques dotting the path down.

Related posts:
Cathedral of salt
La Mitad del Mundo
Festival of lights
Cathedral of León
Early16th century monasteries


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