Everything salt. That’s the way some people describe Colombia’s Salt Cathedral. It is located approximately 600 feet below ground level, and it is a former salt mine. The location is outside of Bogota in Zipaquira.
The cathedral is known as an architectural wonder. It was built in the caverns and tunnels once a place where miners did their work. During its heyday, millions of tons of rock salt were removed. Today visitors have the opportunity to see the three naves which represent the birth, life, and death of Christ. It features a basilica dome, chandeliers, and a huge floor-to-ceiling cross. It is illuminated with brilliant purple lights. Another main attraction is ‘the mirrors of water.’ The surroundings are illuminated by the reflection of the light on the water creating a fascinating optical effect of swimming in an underground cavern.
The Cathedral Serves Several Purposes
Aside from being an attraction for ‘site-seers,’ many couples choose the place to have their wedding ceremony. There is also a food hall that can hold 300 people. Many seminars, corporate meetings, and other events are held in the auditorium and convention center, which can hold 260 to 800 people. Visitors can enjoy a delicious cup of Columbian coffee in the Coffee Chamber, which also provides ambient music.
Mass Is Held At The Cathedral
When entering the cathedral, visitors find it to be dark and dank. They often smell a bit of sulfur in the air. Then, it suddenly widens to show off numerous Roman Catholic icons such as the Stations of the Cross and Archangel Gabriel. All of the figures are carved out of salt. Thousands of people attend Easter services. Each Sunday, the church has as many as 3,000 visitors attending mass.
The miners prayed in a small sanctuary. This was built inside the caverns. They prayed to the Virgin of the Rosary of Guasa – the patron saint of miners. Their prayer was to protect them from toxic gases, explosions, and other situations. The work was very dangerous. After removing the salt, the miners left behind a network of grottoes, pits, and passageways. Most mines are generally abandoned and sealed up. However, Zipaquira’s miners and church officials persuaded the Colombian government to convert the empty spaces into a church early in the 1950s.
More Than 600,000 Visitors A Year
Turning the mine into a cathedral was a gigantic undertaking. For example, the Stations of the Cross being carved into the walls took five years. After years of construction, it now attracts more than 600,000 visitors each year. In total, more than 13 million people from all over the world have visited the cathedral. Colombia’s Congress has named the Salt Cathedral to be “the first wonder of Colombia.”