La Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

18.04.17 08:52 PM By Putri

Although I might seem like I have a flawless personality I must admit that I have one or two (or 6749362819) irrational fears. The most monumental fears of them all are; fear of heights, fear of the dark, and fear of old age poverty.

So what does my scaredy-cat qualities has to do with this article of the La Zipaquira salt cathedral?

Well folks, lemme tell you somfin’ about la Zipaquira salt cathedral; it is located inside of a working salt mine, 200 meters below the ground, carved deep within a mountain, and miners lost their lives toiling underground to build this salt mine and cathedral. You have to go through this long, dark salt mine tunnel before reaching the cathedral. The cathedral itself was originally used as a place for praying before the miners start their day. If you look closely at the wall, the floor, even the ceiling, you can see clearly the prints of excavator axes sculpting through the tunnel. This site literally made of sweat, tears, and lives of Colombian hardworking miners. There are even monuments of remembrance for those who have fallen in the building of this site. It does sound like a place that would give you goosebumps, doesn’t it?

However, worry not ye’ digital dumplings, although the mine/cathedral IS dark and all that, there’s actually nothing scary about it. The cathedral itself is considered as the most notable achievement of Colombian modern architecture. The entrance of the salt mine is decorated with colorful and blinking light, as if you are about to enter an underground techno discotheque. The tunnel that lead up to the main Cathedral Hall is decorated with 14 small chapels representing Stations of the Cross that represent the events of Jesus’s last journey. Each chapel represents a different part of Jesus crucifixion and kneeling platforms are provided from carved salt rock (halite). Dim lights are strategically placed to enhance the dramatic feels of the path, you can even hear a religious music playing at the background from afar. (eerie).

IMHO, this salt mine tunnel/cathedral gives me the impression of an outer space, a religious outer space to be precise. It just something with the way it made and looks, the grandiose of it, the darkness, the damped smell and cold-ish temperature, somehow it felt so out of this world. The ceiling is so high, you won’t feel like entrapped although you are actually hundreds meters underground. I have never been in something like this before.

There are only one major tunnel path leading right to the cathedral that you can take but you can see smaller paths leading out into the darkness of the earth (these paths are closed for public). The entrance of each of these smaller paths allows you to see how far into the nothingness the path leads to, which is kind of freaky. I just couldn’t help myself but gazing at it and unconsciously expecting an alien would pop out of nowhere. It felt a random alien occurrence somewhat fitting in this environment.

Once you get to the bottom of the mine, you will arrive at the main cathedral that has three sections, each representing the birth, the life and the death of Jesus. Everything you see here such as gargantuan crosses, ornaments, relief paintings and other architectural details are carved in the halite (salt rock).

To think that this is all made of hand-carved natural halite, it is amazing (and I may or may have not licked the sacred sodium wall, you know, just to be sure).
According to the history, the salt deposit in this area were formed more than 250 millions year ago. The salt from this site has been excavated since the 5th century and has been the area’s most important activities (rumor has it that the salt excavated from this mine was used to fund activities to bring independence to the country). The cathedral itself has been ZE ultimate tourist attraction of the city where it is located; la Zipaquira village.

Zipaquira is a cute busy village located 49 km North from Bogota (an hour of car ride outside the peak hours). The village definitely profits from the tourists’ flow attracted by the salt cathedral, you can see by the numbers of pubs and restaurants sit side by side surrounding the village’s colonial style plaza (square). The city  is a bit sleepy during the day, but once the sun starts to set, the party begins, each and every night! The locals are nocturnal, they love to hangout until late at night.