The bus ride from Bogotá to Zipaquirá was easy and straightforward, and after a walk through the town and up a hill, I arrived at the entrance of the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. I took off my sunglasses so my eyes could get used to the darkness, and stepped inside. A small group was about to set off with their guide, and I quickly joined them as we walked down, into the interior of the mountain in which the cathedral has been carved out. Contrary to what I expected, we did not directly step into a cathedral. Instead, we walked down the Via Crucis, where the 14 stations of the cross are represented. Each station had a cross carved out in salt, and most of us could not resist to wet a finger and taste the substance. Undoubtedly: salt!
Walking down the Via Crucis, we arrived at a balcony from which we could see the central nave of the Salt Cathedral. A quite simple, but enormous hall, with a huge 16 metres high cross at the other side of the cathedral. Soon thereafter, we descended into the central nave, also known as the nave of life; it was only here that we realized the size of this gigantic cave inside the salt mine. At 75 metres long and 25 metres high, it was not strange we felt dwarfed. Four immense columns, representing the four evangelists, are carved out here. Furthermore, there is a sculpture in marble, depicting the creation of man, based on the masterpiece of Michelangelo in the Sixtine Chapel. We visited the other naves, which are the nave of birth and the nave of death. In both, there are sculptures depicting the birth and death of Jesus Christ. I especially liked the small cupolas carved out in the ceiling, lit by coloured lights. Remarkably, even though we were deep down in the salt mine here, we did not really feel cold, and the air was quite fresh.
The history of this cathedral is younger than you might expect. A first cathedral was carved out in 1954, but it had to be closed. The present Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá was scooped out in 1995, below the first one. It actually cannot officially be called a cathedral, since it has no bishop. It is more than just a curiosity, though: there is a mass every Sunday. A little further into the salt cathedral, you can even find a small shop and a bar, close to the Watermirror, a thin layer of water on a basin of salt (of course), reflecting the ceiling. It is in this area that you can also find a memorial site in remembrance of the miners who worked in this salt mine, and those who perished. While calling the salt cathedral the primary miracle of Colombia might be a little over the top, I must say that a visit is a special experience indeed.
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