Almost on the border with Ecuador, Las Lajas is the manifestation of a miraculous pilgrimage site. The church sits atop a bridge that crosses a deep canyon, after following a steep path down the hillside. The neo-gothic structure protects a sacred rock where the image of the virgin emerged in 1754. The story has Maria Mueces (a local Amerindian) and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa caught in a storm and seeking refuge between the Laja cliffs (Laja is a type of shale rock). Rosa suddenly exclaimed 'the Mestiza is calling me' and pointed to a lightning-illuminated apparition of the Virgin Mary on the rock to which people still journey to visit today.
A straw and wood shrine was in place by 1756, and the first chapel was built in 1803 with the bridge connection to the other side of the canyon. Today's grander structure (50m above river, 100m high) was built between 1926 and 1944 (or 1916 and 1949 in other sources) and designed by local Narino architect Lucindo Espinoza. It was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1951 and declared an official sanctuary in 1954. The site has also caused some reports of miraculous healing. Lower floors hold a second chapel and a museum. Look out for the creepy multi-limbed preserved dogs!
|It's a beautiful location, and there are several paths leading up and down the valley to waterfalls and the down to river itself.|
|The Virgin Mary on the rock has now been painted and gilded in gold|
|Plaques commemorating the visitors to the site and the donations they made line the pathways to Las Lajas|
|Old photos of Las Lajas showing church construction|