October 25, 2018, 7:23 pm
Before we get to the facts, let’s clear something up: this is not a big church made from table salt. It’s not like walking through a sandcastle contest on the beach, although that would be cool. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is a religious and touristic space built inside a salt mine, which means you have to walk about 220 yards underground, or 200 meters, to see it.
Now that we got that straightened out, check out these cool facts:
1. Chapels and Tunnels
The attraction isn’t just one big sanctuary underground. The cathedral is broken up into 14 small chapels connected by tunnels. Each chapel represents the stations of the cross, or Jesus Christ’s last journey before crucifixion. There are spots to kneel and pray at each station, but most people just admire each little chapel and keep it moving.
2. Historic Happenings
The modern-day cathedral opened to the public in 1995, but its history stretches way before the time of Beanie Babies and the Spice Girls. Pre-Columbian people called the Muiscas had been extracting salt from the mines in that area since the 5th century. They used the commodity for trading. Builders constructed a church in the 1950s, but even before then, miners carved a little church and alters where they would say daily prayers and ask the patron saint of miners for safety.
3. Length of Visit
You can speed walk your way through the whole underground cathedral in about 30 minutes. But tearing through a holy space isn’t recommended. What is recommended is taking a guided tour. Most guided tours in the Salt Cathedral last about 1.5 to 2 hours. It’s better to listen to a guide share information about this unique cathedral because I just made all these facts up. Just kidding, I didn’t. But it really is beneficial to take a tour so you can learn about each station and the history of the architectural project.
4. Holy Week Crowds
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week leading up to Easter. Easter Sunday seems to be the most observed day during Holy Week for Christians in the United States and other parts of the world, but in Colombia, the whole week is significant, especially Good Friday. Why am I telling you this? It’s to let you know that if you try to visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá during Holy Week, you will be fighting crowds through the whole experience. Well, hopefully you won’t actually be fighting people. It’s just best to visit before or after Holy Week.
Even though the Salt Cathedral is a Catholic space, it doesn’t mean non-secular people or folks practicing other religions won’t enjoy this destination. Sure, you won’t be kneeling and praying at each station, but the attraction will still delight anyone interested in history, culture or just licking salty walls.
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