Catedral de Sal—underground church in an active salt mine
April 7, 2023
My last post presented evidence that Colombia’s Eastern Cordillera was covered by a shallow sea during the Cretaceous Period: https://landscapes-revealed.net/marine-fossils-in-colombias-eastern-cordillera/. This post presents more evidence for an oceanic setting—thick salt layers that were deposited in a shallow sea where high rates of evaporation caused water to evaporate and salt crystals to build up many layers over time.
Zipaquirá salt mine
A major salt mine is located in the town of Zipaquirá, located about 45 km (27 miles) north of Bogotá. Indigenous people began mining the salt thousands of years ago, and when Europeans arrived, they also extracted this valuable resource. Mining continues today, but with advanced equipment that provides safer conditions for the miners. Most of the salt is for industrial uses. For example, salt sets the dye in fabric and is used to produce glass, polyester, plastics, and leather.
A church built in the mine
In earlier times, mining was a more dangerous profession and during the 1930s the miners placed images of saints in the walls of the underground mine, and prayed to them for safety. Funding was eventually provided to build a church that shared space with the existing mine. Years of blasting and drilling weakened the church’s walls and caused it to close in 1992. The church was rebuilt with public and private funds and it reopened again in 1995 at a deeper level (180 m / 600 ft) that is farther from the area of active mining.
The “Catedral de Sal” (salt church) is a notable achievement of Colombian architecture. It is one of the most popular tourist and pilgrimage sites in Colombia. About 3,000 Catholic parishioners gather here each Sunday for religious services.
Back to Bogotá
We only had two days in Bogotá, but we saw enough to make me want to return and learn more. Other parts of Colombia entice me to return—for example, Parque Nacional Los Nevados, the site of Colombia’s active volcanoes, and Cali, called the “Salsa Capital” because of its street parties and dance. I’ll end my Colombian post with some scenes from Bogotá.