Places you must visit in South America: Santuario de las Lajas, Colombia
Las Lajas Sanctuary (Spanish: Santuario de Las Lajas) is a basilica church located in the southern Colombian Department of Nariño, in the municipality of Ipiales, and built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
The present church was built in Gothic Revival style between 1916 and 1949. The name Laja comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to shale.
The inspiration for the church’s creation was a miraculous event in 1754, when Amerindian Maria Meneses de Quiñones and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a very strong storm. The two sought refuge between the gigantic Lajas, when, to Mueces’s surprise, her daughter Rosa exclaimed “the Mestiza is calling me” and pointed to the lightning-illuminated silhouette over the laja. This apparition of the Virgin Mary instigated popular pilgrimage to the site and occasional reports of cases of miraculous healing. The image on the stone is still visible today.
The existence of a shrine in this location was recorded in the accounts of friar Juan de Santa Gertrudis’s journey through the southern region of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1756 and 1764. The first shrine was built here in the middle of 18th century from straw and wood. It was replaced with a new, larger shrine in 1802, which in turn was extended and connected to the opposite side of canyon with a bridge.
The current church was built between January 1, 1916, and August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers. It rises 100 metres (330 ft) high from the bottom of the canyon and is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by a 50 metres (160 ft) tall bridge.