Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Salt Cathedral

Zipaquirá is not a big town. It has about 65,000 residents, and lies 25 kilometers north of the Bogota border. While it has an attractive town plaza made of brick with large palm trees and a beautiful old church, there is one reason it is one of the most visited places in Colombia: the Salt Cathedral.


Yesterday, I took two buses with my friend Maria to see this major tourist attraction. I had high expectations and it didn’t disappoint me. Inside a large green hill on the edge of town is a rock salt mine that has been in use for centuries. The current cathedral was opened on Dec. 16, 1995, according to the Footprint South American Handbook. The previous underground cathedral had closed because it was unsafe.


To me, the current salt cathedral is one of the modern eight wonders of the world. I’ve been inside the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and this cathedral was every bit as impressive in its own unique way. The first thing I noticed was the lighting. There were 14 rooms, or chambers, each with a cross sculpted by a different artist and illuminated with white or black lights. Because the cave passageways were hardly lit, the crosses stood out in stark contrast.

As I continued to walk, I realized how incredibly enormous this mine shaft was. According to the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo, it is 8,500 meters. While there was a long line to enter, inside the cathedral was so big that I could always find a solitary section to enjoy it and take photos. Beyond the distinct crosses, about 200 meters underground, was a giant cross illuminated against the wall in white light. In front of it was an altar with rows and rows of wooden pews. There were also intricately-carved angels and biblical figures throughout the cathedral. Next to the section with the giant cross, was another section with clumps of white salt stuck to a colossal-sized wall. I touched it and licked my finger.








For more information on the Salt Cathedral, you can go to wikipedia or the government site.

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