Las Lajas Sanctuary – an Amazing Sight!

One of the most outstanding architectural monuments in the world is a Roman Catholic basilica, near the Colombian city of Ipiales, not far from the border with Ecuador. The fascinating thing about this place is that it was built inside the canyon where the Guitara River flows. Las Lajas Cathedral, also known as “Las Lajas Sanctuary“, is at 100 meters high from the bottom of the canyon, being connected with a 50 meters tall bridge to the other side of the ravine.


Las Lajas Sanctuary is practically hanging over the abyss and this is one reason it is considered the most beautiful church in Colombia. It took 33 years (between 1916 and 1949) to finish the present church and it was financed by local churchgoers. But, if you’re actually in front of her you can see that all those years were not in vain, as the result really seems to take you to another world. A close look to the Cathedral reminds you of some fairy-tale European castle.

You might wonder why anyone thought to build a Cathedral in such a dangerous location. Well, history tells us that everything started from a miraculous event that happened in 1754. Then, an Amerindian woman, named Maria Mueces, and her daughter Rosa, which was deaf-mute, were caught in a powerful storm. The story says that while the two women were looking for shelter, they felt like a strong force was guiding them towards a cave, where they were able to see the image of Our Virgin Mary on one of the walls. The little girl then shouted to her mother, pointing to the image. It is believed that the apparition of the Virgin Mary cured Rosa.


The news of the miracle spread across the region, making people wonder if it was really true. Well, an old blind man thought to do something else. He traveled from village to village, asking people to help him build a chapel on the place where Virgin Mary appeared. When he managed to collect enough money, a second miracle took place, as the old man regained his eyesight. Moreover, his dream became a reality when the chapel was standing in the late eighteenth century.


Pilgrims started to visit the chapel and see the image of Virgin Mary. Lots of other cases of miraculous healing were reported during the years and more and more people went to see the stone that had on it the image of Virgin Mary.

It took at least two centuries for local authorities and residents to build the huge Cathedral that can be seen nowadays. The present structure was built in Gothic Revival style, which gives you the impression that it is a lot older. Moreover, it doesn’t look much with any typical South American Catholic church. One thing is certain: it really is an amazing sight!

Getting there

Las Lajas Sanctuary is located in the Nariño Department of Colombia in the southwestern part of the country, bordering Ecuador to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The nearest city, Ipiales, is just a few kilometers away and can be reached in a 15-minute drive. Upon arriving at Las Casas, follow the obvious footpath for about 100 meters to the entrance of Las Lajas. A short staircase will take you to the cathedral.

Thank you Dr. Geoffrey Neumaier for the submission.

  1. November 11, 2014
  2. November 8, 2018

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