Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Las Lajas - Nariño, Kolumbija

Website of the Sanctuary

(57) 2-775-4428

Every day from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm

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Las Lajas sanctuary

The Las Lajas sanctuary is a Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica church dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady of Las Lajas Ipiales. It is located in southern Colombia and has been a tourism and pilgrimage destination since the eighteenth century.

Located 7 km from Ipiales, on a bridge which spans a spectacular gorge of the Guáitara River, is this gothic church. Legend has it that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the mid-18th century on an enormous rock above the river. Interestingly, the church has been constructed in such a way that the rock (and image) is its high altar.

Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Pilgrims from all over Colombia and Ecuador journey to Las Lajas sanctuary and, unsurprisingly, reports of miracles at the site are not uncommon. Accommodation is suitably ascetic, being provided in a small but cheery convent up the road from the church.

History of the four temples

First Temple (1754)

When the news came up, it spread to Ipilaes and its surroundings, then the construction of the first Rustic Church took place, by Fray Gabriel Villafuerte, in 1754.

Second Temple (1858-1893)

In 1769, Fray Luis Herrero granted permission to Manuel Ribera for the collect of alms and in Colombia and Ecuador. On April 21, 1769, Eusebio Mejia y Navarro (Labor Priest), started the construction of the second temple, which was finished 7 years later.
Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Third Temple (1859-1893)

It was built by Father José María Burbano y Lara, with the lead of the Ecuadorian architect, Mariano Aulestia and Simón Atapuma. The Priest Henry Collins, was commanded by the Chaplaincy to drill out the venue in order to produce a beautiful artificial waterfall

Fourth Temple (1916)

The 1st of January of 1916, took place the blessing of The Foundation Stone of the current Temple. The Chaplains José María Cabrera, Ángel María Chamorro, Justino C. Mejia y Mejia, along with the Architects Lucindo Espinosa (From Nariño) and Gualberto Pérez (Ecuadorian), took part on its construction, along with many labor workers who quietly made possible the construction of this majestic temple.
The Sanctuary, from the XVI century, is composed by three roofed wings with Crucería vaults, Three towers end in needle shape, adorned with lumps and fronds; big windows, rosettes, flying buttresses and pinnacles are part of the external lay out.

How to get to the Las Lajas sanctuary

Taxi from the bus station in Ipiales is the easiest way to reach the church, expect to pay 4000 pesos for the taxi one way (2008).

The taxi will either choose to wait for you or you can simply take one of the many other waiting taxis eager to accept your money.

On the return journey get the taxi driver to stop at the top of the hill for a quick photo opportunity of the church nestled in the valley below.

See our Top 15 catholic shrines in the world.

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Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Las Lajas sanctuary Mass times

Monday – Friday

  • 6.00 am, 7.00 am, 9.00 am, 11.00 am, 3.00 pm, 5.00 pm

Sundays

  • 6.00 am, 7.00 am, 8.00 am, 9.00 am, 10.00 am, 11.00 am, 12.00 pm, 3.00 pm, 5.00 pm

History of the Legend

Historians and scientists are at a loss to explain this fabulous image on the wall of a South American cave. It may forever remain an enigma.

Back in the eighteenth century, María Mueses de Quiñones, an indian woman from the village of Potosi, Colombia, often walked the six miles between her village and the neighbouring one of Ipiales.

Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

One day in 1754 as she was making the journey, she approached the place called Las Lajas (the Rock Slabs), where the trail passes through a deep gorge of the Guaitara River.

Maria never liked this part of the trail. There were rumours a cave in the Lajas was haunted. Superstitions lingered amongst the converted Christian indians.

In the indian way, she was carrying her daughter Rosa, a deaf-mute, on her back. And by the time she had climbed to the Lajas she was weary and sat on a rock to rest.

Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

The child got down from her back to play. Next thing Rosa was by the cave shouting: “Mummy, there is a woman in here with a boy in her arms!” Maria was beside herself with the fright. For this was the first time she had heard her daughter speak.

She did not see the figures the girl was talking about, nor did she want to. She grabbed the child and hastened on to Ipiales.

When she told what happened nobody took her seriously at first. However, as the news spread some asked if maybe it was true. After all, the child was now able to speak. A few days later the child Rosa disappeared from home.

After looking everywhere the anguished Maria guessed it: her daughter must have gone to the cave.

She often said that the woman was calling her. Maria ran to Las Lajas to find her daughter kneeling in front of a splendid woman and playing affectionately with a child who had come down from His mother’s arms to let the girl enjoy His divine tenderness.

Maria fell to her knees before this beautiful spectacle; she had seen the Blessed Virgin. Fearful of ridicule, Maria kept quiet about the event. But frequently she and Rosa went to the cave to place wild flowers and candles in the cracks of the rocks.

The months went by, with María and Rosa keeping their secret. Until one day the girl fell gravely ill and died. A distraught Maria decided to take her daughter’s body to the Lajas to ask the Lady to restore Rosa to life.

Pressed by the sadness of Maria’s unrelenting supplications, the Blessed Virgin obtained Rosa’s resurrection from Her Divine Son. Overflowing with joy, Maria went home.

It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather. Early next morning everyone went to Las Lajas, each wanting to check the details for themselves.

Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Coronation of Our Lady of Las Lajas

In September 15, 1952, by Pope Pius XII, performed the coronation of Our Lady of Las Lajas in a solemn Mass attended by eighteen bishops of Ecuador and Colombia.

Likewise, this same pontiff gave in August 30, 1954 gi this temple the title of Minor Basilica.

The interior walls of the chapel are carved stone gray and the altar is built on the same stone cave where Rosa had visiond.

Three priests officiate masses for shifts that are very popular and are intended to pray for a favor or thank the Virgen. “The ojona” or “mulatta” are other affectionate names under which people refer a Madonna del Rosario.

Las Lajas Sanctuary Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia

Monsignor Justin Mejia, pastor of the sanctuary for a long time, described it: “the beauty of the image of our lady of Las Lajas is something that amazes and captivates, that meets the eye and the heart, the taste of the artist and the taste of the peasant. For all eyes have a look and to every heart a beat.

 

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Taxi from the bus station in Ipiales is the easiest way to reach the church, expect to pay 4000 pesos for the taxi one way (2008). The taxi will either choose to wait for you or you can simply take one of the many other waiting taxis eager to accept your money. On the return journey get the taxi driver to stop at the top of the hill for a quick photo opportunity of the church nestled in the valley below.

HOME CONSECRATION TO OUR LADY OF LAS LAJAS
(to be prayed once every month)

Holy and Blessed Lady of Las Lajas, thee have been constituted as the helper of the Christians,
blessing and protecting the homes where you are praised and honored
in your presence and sacred image: We choose thee, today and forever for being the
Lady and owner of this home, and we beg thee to deign to showing in it your almighty help,
keeping us form illness, fire, lighting, floods, quakes, burglars, discordances and the perils of war.
Bless and protect the people dwelling here and grant them the peace, great faith, true love to God and
neighbor, patience in the sorrow, hope of eternal life, joy in the daily work, jobs and studies, and the
grace to prevent us from bad example, any vice, any sin, any condemnation for eternity and every
other misfortune and accident.

Oh, our lady conceived without sin,
pray for us who
have recourse to thee

History of the Legend

Historians and scientists are at a loss to explain this fabulous image on the wall of a South American cave. It may forever remain an enigma. Back in the eighteenth century, María Mueses de Quiñones, an indian woman from the village of Potosi, Colombia, often walked the six miles between her village and the neighbouring one of Ipiales. One day in 1754 as she was making the journey, she approached the place called Las Lajas (the Rock Slabs), where the trail passes through a deep gorge of the Guaitara River. Maria never liked this part of the trail. There were rumours a cave in the Lajas was haunted. Superstitions lingered amongst the converted Christian indians.

In the indian way, she was carrying her daughter Rosa, a deaf-mute, on her back. And by the time she had climbed to the Lajas she was weary and sat on a rock to rest. The child got down from her back to play. Next thing Rosa was by the cave shouting: “Mummy, there is a woman in here with a boy in her arms!” Maria was beside herself with the fright. For this was the first time she had heard her daughter speak. She did not see the figures the girl was talking about, nor did she want to. She grabbed the child and hastened on to Ipiales.

When she told what happened nobody took her seriously at first. However, as the news spread some asked if maybe it was true. After all, the child was now able to speak. A few days later the child Rosa disappeared from home. After looking everywhere the anguished Maria guessed it: her daughter must have gone to the cave. She often said that the woman was calling her. Maria ran to Las Lajas to find her daughter kneeling in front of a splendid woman and playing affectionately with a child who had come down from His mother’s arms to let the girl enjoy His divine tenderness. Maria fell to her knees before this beautiful spectacle; she had seen the Blessed Virgin. Fearful of ridicule, Maria kept quiet about the event. But frequently she and Rosa went to the cave to place wild flowers and candles in the cracks of the rocks.

The months went by, with María and Rosa keeping their secret. Until one day the girl fell gravely ill and died. A distraught Maria decided to take her daughter’s body to the Lajas to ask the Lady to restore Rosa to life. Pressed by the sadness of Maria’s unrelenting supplications, the Blessed Virgin obtained Rosa’s resurrection from Her Divine Son. Overflowing with joy, Maria went home. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather. Early next morning everyone went to Las Lajas, each wanting to check the details for themselves.

That was when the marvellous picture of Our Lady on the wall of the grotto was discovered. Maria Muese de Quinones could not recall noticing it until then. The child Jesus is in Our Lady’s arms. On one side of Our Lady is Saint Francis; on the other is Saint Dominic. Her delicate and regal features are those of a Latin American, perhaps an Indian. Her abundant black hair covers her like a mantle (The two-dimensional crown is metal and was added by devotees much later on). Her eyes sparkle with a pure and friendly joy. She looks about fourteen years old. The indians had no doubt: this was their queen.
As devotion to the image grew, a good road replaced the old trail. In the early 20th century a tasteful gothic church was built over the cave.

But who put this magnificent image there? The author has never been identified! Scoffers say the wily Dominicans sneaked in a good artist, and the gullible indians are still being fooled. But tests done when the church was built show how stupendous this image actually is. Geologists from Germany bored core samples from several spots in the image. There is no paint, no dye, nor any other pigment on the surface of the rock. The colours are the colours of the rock itself. Even more incredible, the rock is perfectly coloured to a depth of several feet! So the mystery remains unsolved. Did angels do it? Or did God Himself do it at the dawn of creation, when he contemplated the most excellent of all His creatures? The One whom He would make Queen of Heaven and Earth. And to whose maternal care the future nation of Colombia would be entrusted.

Posted in Colombia and South America