The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas is a Roman Catholic minor basilica located in the municipality of Ipiales, in the Nariño Department, and is built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River, Colombia.
Pious believers claim that the Madonna and Child image colorfully displayed on the wall rock formation is 100% natural by divine origin and was supernaturally formed without any human construction. The present church was built in a Gothic style between 1916 and 1949 (33 years). The name Laja (slab) comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to shale and slate.
It is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians from both Colombia and neighboring Ecuador, due to a Marian apparition that is purported to have taken place here in the 18th century.
The inspiration for the church's creation was a purported miraculous event in 1754, when Amerindian Maria Meneses de Quiñones and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a very strong storm. The two sought refuge between the gigantic Lajas (slabs of stone), when, to Meneses' surprise, her daughter Rosa exclaimed "the Mestiza is calling me" and pointed to a lightning-illuminated silhouette over the laja. This apparition of the Virgin Mary instigated popular pilgrimage to the site and occasional reports of cases of miraculous healing. An image appeared in the stone that is several feet inside of it. The image in the stone is still visible today.
The existence of a shrine in this location was recorded in the accounts of friar Juan de Santa Gertrudis' journey through the southern region of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1756 and 1764. The first shrine was built here in the middle of 18th century from straw and wood. It was replaced with a new, larger shrine in 1802, which in turn was extended and connected to the opposite side of canyon with a bridge.
The current church was built between January 1, 1916, and August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers. It rises 100 m (330 ft) high from the bottom of the canyon and is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by a 50 m (160 ft) tall bridge.Dedication
The shrine is located in southern Colombia and has been a tourism and pilgrimage destination since the eighteenth century. The Spanish Franciscan Juan de Santa Gertrudis (1724–1799) mentions the sanctuary in Book III, Part 2, of his four-volume chronicle of his 1756–62 journey in the south portion of the Kingdom of New Granada (titled "Wonders of Nature"). This is possibly the oldest reference to its existence.