Las Lajas Shrine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Las Lajas Sanctuary)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Las Lajas Sanctuary
Santuario de Las Lajas, Ipiales, Colombia, 2015-07-21, DD 26-27 HDR.JPG
AffiliationRoman Catholic Church
LocationIpiales, Nariño, Colombia
Geographic coordinates0°48′20″N 77°35′10″W / 0.8055°N 77.5860°W / 0.8055; -77.5860Coordinates: 0°48′20″N 77°35′10″W / 0.8055°N 77.5860°W / 0.8055; -77.5860

The National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Las Lajas (Spanish: Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de las Lajas), commonly called Las Lajas Shrine (Santuario de Las Lajas), is a basilica church located in southern Colombia. The basilica is situated within the municipality of Ipiales, in the Nariño Department, and is built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.

The present church was built in a Gothic style between 1916 and 1949 (33 years). The name Laja (slab) comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to shale and slate.[citation needed]

It is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians from both Colombia and neighboring Ecuador, due to a Marian apparition that is purported to have taken place here in the 18th century.



The inspiration for the church's creation was a purported miraculous event in 1754, when Amerindian Maria Meneses de Quiñones and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a very strong storm. The two sought refuge between the gigantic Lajas (slabs of stone), when, to Meneses' surprise, her daughter Rosa exclaimed "the Mestiza is calling me" and pointed to a lightning-illuminated silhouette over the laja. This apparition of the Virgin Mary instigated popular pilgrimage to the site and occasional reports of cases of miraculous healing. An image appeared in the stone that is several feet inside of it. The image in the stone is still visible today.[1]

The existence of a shrine in this location was recorded in the accounts of friar Juan de Santa Gertrudis' journey through the southern region of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1756 and 1764. The first shrine was built here in the middle of 18th century from straw and wood. It was replaced with a new, larger shrine in 1802, which in turn was extended and connected to the opposite side of canyon with a bridge.

The current church was built between January 1, 1916, and August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers. It rises 100 m (330 ft) high from the bottom of the canyon and is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by a 50 m (160 ft) tall bridge.[2]


The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas is a Roman Catholic 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. The Spanish Franciscan Juan de Santa Gertrudis (1724–1799) mentions the sanctuary in Book III, Part 2, of his four-volume chronicle of his 1756–62 journey in the south portion of the Kingdom of New Granada (titled "Wonders of Nature"). This is possibly the oldest reference to its existence.

The legends[edit]

Las Lajas Sanctuary
Frontal view

Las Lajas Sanctuary in southwest Colombia is renowned for its stunning architecture, for a series of legends involving the appearance of the Holy Virgin Mary, and for a mysterious mural of unknown origin. Located in the southwestern Colombian state of Nariño, the Sanctuary sits on a 130-foot-high bridge built over the Guaitara river, less than seven miles from the Ecuadoran border. The neo-Gothic church was erected by worshipers between 1916 and 1953, to replace a shrine first built in the middle of the 18th century.

The cascada, a small waterfall that descends in stages.
Ornate ceiling of a nave, or the central part of the church building.

According to popular belief, the Virgin Mary appeared to a woman and her deaf-mute daughter in 1754 at the same place where the church now stands. The woman, Maria Meneses de Quiñones, and her daughter, Rosa, were passing by the Guaitara river when they sought refuge from a storm. At that moment, Rosa shouted "Mum, the Virgin is calling me!" and pointed to an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The woman kept quiet about the apparition until something even less expected happened: after Rosa died, Mueces, determined to pray for her daughter's soul, returned to the place where her daughter and she had seen the Virgin Mary; the Virgin then miraculously revived Rosa, and mother and daughter could no longer keep the miracle a secret. The first shrine in the honor of Jesus's mother was built a few years after the alleged appearance, according to the journal of a friar who travelled through the region between 1756 and 1764. Half a century later, in 1802, a bigger shrine was built and worshipers erected the first version of the bridge that now allows access to the church.[2][3]

The miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary is only the first of a number of legends and mysteries linked to Las Lajas Sanctuary. For example, nobody knows who made the image of the Virgin that is at the back of the church, behind the altar. According to some, the image was first seen when Mueces wanted to show a priest and other local people where her daughter had been revived. On arrival, the worshipers saw the image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus imprinted in a stone wall. The image supposedly extends several feet into the stone, but this has not been verified. It attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.


The venerated Marian image of the shrine received a papal decree of canonical coronation on 15 September 1952. Las Lajas was elevated to a minor basilica in 1994.[3][4]

By some measures, it is the second most popular pilgrimage site in Colombia, after Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá. Its location close to the Ecuador border makes it a popular destination for pilgrims from both countries.[2][3]


  1. ^ Woods, Sarah; McColl, Richard (2015). Colombia. Chalfont St Peter, England and Guilford, CT: Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 320–321. ISBN 978-1-84162-921-6. Archived from the original on 2022-04-09. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  2. ^ a b c Davidson, Linda Kay; Gitlitz, David Martin (2002). Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA, Denver, CO and Oxford: ABC-CLIO. p. 331. ISBN 978-1-57607-004-8. Archived from the original on 2022-04-09. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  3. ^ a b c Pereyra, David (2015). "Privileged Places of Marian Piety in South America". In Brunn, Stanley D. (ed.). The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics. Dordrecht, Germany: Springer. p. 589. ISBN 978-94-017-9376-6. Archived from the original on 2022-04-09. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  4. ^ "The myths and mysteries of Colombia's Las Lajas Sanctuary". Nov 24, 2014. Archived from the original on February 20, 2020. Retrieved Sep 18, 2019.

External links[edit]