Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Salt Cathedral

Next on the itinerary for Day Tres:  A visit to La Catedral de Sal in Zipiquirá.

The rains let up once we got off the mountain.  The drive was completely not harrowing at that point.  The town of Zipiquirá is a major tourist attraction in Central Colombia.  Deservedly so.  And where you've got legitimate tourist attractions, you have TOURIST TRAPS!  Colombian style.  I present to you, Parque Jaime Duque:
The Taj Mahal? In the middle of Colombia?
Yes, that is a replica of the Taj Mahal right here in the greater Bogotá Standard Metropolitian Statistical Area.  The whole thing had the feel of the set of The Prisoner:
He's got the whole world / In his hands
A giant sculpture of hand holding the Globe.  Immediately to its left, you might see the replica of the Colossus of Rhodes.  If there is a Colombian equivalent to Roadside America, then this would be one of the featured attractions.  Almost as cool, just up the road, is Panaca Bogotá, a farm-themed tourist trap with loads of performing animals.  Dancing horses.  Pig races.  Again, Roadside Colombia, if it exists, would be in love.  The original Panaca is in Armenia, Colombia, which I'm scheduled to visit late next week.  Perhaps I can re-arrange my schedule for a visit.

Past the tourist traps and onward to a real tourist attraction: the Salt Cathedral of Zipiquirá.  It is not a cathedral made of salt, as that would melt away in the very frequent rains along the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes.  It is a cathedral built inside a former salt mine.
Entrance to La Catedral de Sal
Zipiquirá was sacred to the indigenous tribe for the simple reason it had salt.  Hard to remember, but it wasn't that long ago that people worried about getting enough salt in their diets.  The grounds above the cathedral are appropriate for a tourist site, with souvenir stalls and statuary appropriate for photography, such as this large statue honoring the salt miners:
On the Cathedral grounds, in honor of the salt miners
You descend about 200m into the Cathedral.  There is no natural light in there and not a whole of artificial light either.  My Canon Sure Shot can only do so much to capture the beauty of the dark Cathedral.

Continuing the descent into the Cathedral proper
When you enter the Cathedral proper, you first walk past the 14 Stations of the Cross.  They are very abstract because of the architect's desire to carve the Stations from the salt inside the mine.  The cross below, bathed in purple light, representing one of the stations, is carved salt:
One station of the cross
Past the Stations of the Cross, you continue to descend toward the main sanctuary.  Note the Archangel Gabriel, one of the few statues inside the Cathedral carved from outside materials and brought into the Cathedral.  You can see the main sanctuary, featuring its huge cross, in the center of the picture.
Loking down into the main sanctuary. Archangel Gabriel on the left.
 Continuing the descent, you pass a nativity scene carved from salt:
Nativity scene, focused on the Baby Jesus
 Beautiful in carved salt:
Nativity scene, left side, with Mary
A carved Piata (Christ being taken down from the Cross):
A rendering of the definitive scene from the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, the moment of creation where the force of life is passed to Adam, rendered in salt, on the floor of the main sanctuary.
The definitive scene from the Sistene Chapel
 Looking across the main sanctuary:
Adam at creation, with the cross
The Cross:
The Cross
There is only one other cathedral like this in the world.  In Krakow, Poland, there also is a cathedral built inside an old salt mine.  They hold actual services here on Sunday mornings (which means it is closed to tourists).

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