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7 September 2012 / leggypeggy

Exploring the Salt Cathedral in Colombia

Main sanctuary

Main sanctuary with carved angel on left

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá isn’t really made of salt, but it has been built within the tunnels of a salt mine about 200 metres underground in Colombia, and not far from Bogotá.

Although it has no bishop, the cathedral functions as a Roman Catholic church and gets about 3000 visitors every Sunday. We were there on a Saturday—having come by steam train—and I’d say it was just as busy as any old Sunday. That’s because in addition to being an important tourist destination, it is a place of pilgrimage.

The cathedral is part of  larger complex that includes the Salt Park and a museum devoted to mining, mineralogy, geology and natural resources.

The church is considered an important achievement in Colombian architecture and I’d have to say it’s a tribute to the jackhammer too. Such a lot of digging. At first we thought it had been dug by hand—I’m sure the early parts were—but the statue of the miner with jackhammer set us straight.

Miner

Miner with jackhammer

In the 1930s, miners dug a sanctuary where they could offer their daily prayers. The actual church was started in the 1950s and dedicated in 1954. Because it was built within a working mine, the sanctuary became unsafe over time and was closed in 1990.

Work on a new cathedral began the next year, 200 metres below the original one. It was inaugurated five years later.

This version was created by making additions to the caves left behind by old mining operations.

The main sections of the current cathedral are 14 colourfully-lit chapels representing the Stations of the Cross, the dome and three naves. There are also four huge columns representing Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Oh, and don’t forget the gift shop!

We spent about 90 minutes visiting the cathedral. It’s an easy stroll down and a long, brisk walk back up because we were afraid we might miss the bus to the train and lunch.

I wish I could tell you more about the dimensions of this enormous place, but our guide spoke only Spanish.

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2 Comments

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  1. lmo58 / Sep 7 2012 5:37 pm

    What a beautiful cathedral! Thanks for sharing Peggy.

    Like

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