“Las Lajas Sanctuary”
We have seen a lot of churches on our way through Central America and Columbia. “Las Lajas” has been a place, we wanted to see, since we started our trip, but first we had to drive the last kilometers from Laguna de la Cocha. Passing a pickup truck with pigs that were tied with rope, so they didn’t fall out of the truck.
Driving through the mountains is amazing, and passing a stand with local fruit and vegetables
Take a look at the countryside
It was a short drive, and the traffic was light, which always makes the drive even better. We had decided to stay overnight at the old monastery, which was only 18,000 pesos a night (6 UDS). It was raining a little bit when we got there, but we could park our motorcycles inside. Click on the picture with the motorcycles to get it in full size and quality
Until 1991 (only 26 years ago) the Roman Catholic Church was the state church in Columbia and Catholicism was the official religion from the Spanish colonization until the 1991 constitutional reform, which gave the Columbian people freedom of religion. However, Catholicism is still the main religion in Colombia by number of adherents. 70% of the national population are Catholic, but only about 25% are practicing Catholics (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Colombia). In comparison the most prominent religion in Denmark is Christianity in the form of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (Den Danske Folkekirke). 71% of Danish people are Christians (64% are Protestant), 25% are non-religious and 3% are members of other religions (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Denmark). I am one of the 71 %, but I rarely go to church, except on Christmas eve, like a lot of other Danish people.
The biggest different is still that in Denmark Politicians will not generally be found making use of any religious rhetoric or arguments in their declarations, and this is especially the case for government ministers and four of Denmark’s former prime ministers have identified themselves as atheists. In Columbia Catholicism still have a huge influence on politics. In 2006 the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that abortion is a constitutional right for women and should not be criminalized in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal impairments, and health or life endangerment. BUT – today women in Colombia still face barriers to accessing safe abortion services, such as onerous medical requirements to prove they qualify for a legal abortion, as well as refusals to provide safe abortion services by doctors and medical institutions (Source: https://www.reproductiverights.org/press-room/10-years-of-legal-abortion-in-colombia).
From the old monastery we could see Las Lajas and one of the several waterfalls in the area
Walking downhill towards “Las Lajas” next to hundreds of memorial plates from visitors – love the garbage can in the right picture
It is free to visit Las Lajas, so we decided to pay the entry fee to the museum, it was only 3000 pesos per person (1 USD). It is a nice little museum, and you get to see a lot more of the church on the inside.
This is one of the collections that are displayed, but we mostly just walk around in the impressive hallways
The pictures displayed in the mosaic windows was amazing
Still the most impressive is the church from the out side, but it was not until 1949 that the Gothic revival style was finished (they started in 1916). 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. The history is that in 1754 Maria Mueses and her daughter Rose hikes through the boulders of “Las Lajas” towards the town Ipiales. Going through the boulders Rosa sreamed “Monny the “Mestiza” is calling me”. After telling the priest in Ipiales about the incident, the same year 1754, Fray Gabriel Villafuerte started the construction of the first chapel. This chapel remained until 1769, when two church workers started the construction for a second building. It was replaced with a new, larger building in 1802, which in turn was extended and connected to the opposite side of canyon with a bridge. The building lasted until 1859, when a priest started a third construction, which was finished 34 years later in 1893. In 1916 the construction of “Las Lajas” as it stands today began.
The front of the church
The inside of the church
When it starts to get dark at 18:15, the outside lights are turned on linking in red, green and blue
The church is definitely worth a visit, and we enjoyed just walking around. The next day we headed for the border crossings between Columbia and Ecuador. We hit the lunch break, and it took us about two hours just to leave Columbia. Glad, that we had bought one of the local snacks. The white is cheese, and the red is dried guayaba (you see the fresh fruit in the right picture) probably with added sugar – we love it!
Finally we could drive into Ecuador after spending 4 hours and 45 minutes. Yes, we did it, we are finally in Ecuador! Next stop is the equator – follow our way to Quito across the equator in the next post.