[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey cross this bridge by the thousands, reaching with each step the sheer rock face of the gorge in which Las Lajas Sanctuary is perched. Fifty kilometers east of Ipiales in Nariño department, Las Lajas is one of Colombia’s most sacred sites.
Throughout the year, pilgrims travel great distances to the valley to catch a glimpse of the Virgin Mary who first appeared on this mountain to the Amerindian María Mueses con Rosa back in 1754. Word of the apparition spread through the valleys and plateaus of the New Granada Kingdom, and a small wooden shrine was erected to the Virgin of the rosary.
In the years that followed, franciscan friar Juan de Jesus Gertudis documented the existence of the small shrine in his four volume work “Marvels of nature.” Over centuries, wood gave way to brick and mortar, and a bridge was constructed to unite the Gothic-style church with the main mountain, granting worshippers access into the 100-meter-deep canyon.
In order to improve the competitiveness of the destination, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and tourism, through the national tourism fund (Fontur), supported the construction of the cable car Santuario de las Lajas with an investment of over $2.5 billion pesos, and which has shortened the distance for tourists descending from the main road to this unique site.
Las Lajas was also ranked by The Telegraph as one of the most beautiful churches in the world. It was the only church in Latin America to be classified as such by the U.K. newspaper.
As Holy Week approaches, a visit to Las Lajas Sanctuary will leave you awestruck by its beauty, its imposing natural setting above the Guáitara river, and its testament to the determination and faith of its founders.
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