Ipiales is a small city in western Colombia, near the border with Ecuador. Just 5 kilometres away from Ipiales sits the iconic gothic church, Las Lajas Sanctuary, also referred to as “a miracle of God in the abyss,” which is a jewel of engineering built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
Surprisingly, Las Lajas continues to remain off the foreign tourists’ radar, partially because of its location. However, it would be ideal to spend a day or two in Ipiales to marvel the alluring beauty of the cathedral.
It dates back to 1754. An Amerindian woman Maria Mueces and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a brutal storm. Hiding out from the weather in the ravine, Maria felt a force calling to them, and to their amazement they looked up and saw the image of the Virgin Mary on the rocks above. At that moment, Rosa was cured of her inability to hear and speak.
Shortly after the discovery was reported, a blind man wandered for ten years from village to village collecting donations to build a chapel around the image. When he returned to Las Lajas, he was able to see.
There is an image of Virgin Mary and Jesus carved in a stone wall at the end of the church, behind the altar. Nobody knows who made the image. According to some, the image was seen first when Mueces wanted to show a priest and other locals where her daughter had been revived.
This apparition of the Virgin Mary instigated popular pilgrimage to the site and miraculous healing.
The current church was built between January 1, 1916, and August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers. Las Lajas received canonical coronation from the Vatican in 1952 and then made a minor basilica in 1994.
You can take a “collectivo” taxi from outside Ipiales’ Bus terminal. It costs 2,200 pesos a person to Las Lajas Sanctuary. It drops you off at the main entrance from where the sanctuary is 5-10 minute walk down the hill. The church is free to enter although the museum below is, which is well worth a look through, is 1,500 pesos a person.There are no bus services to Las Lajas.
It is also possible to walk to Las Lajas from Ipiales through the pedestrian way. The road goes down hill with stunning scenery and viewpoint along the way.
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