Building Series: The Iconic

18 November, 2021

Las Lajas Sanctuary

In 1754, Maria Mueces de Quiñones and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a terrifying storm. Sheltering between flat slabs of sedimentary rock called laja, Mueces was shocked when her daughter cried out, “The Mestiza (the Virgin) is calling me,” and pointed to a silhouette lit by a flash of lightning. An image of the Virgin appeared on one of the slabs. But that’s just the beginning. 
After Rosa’s death, her mother returned to where they had seen the Virgin to pray for her soul. The Virgin brought Rosa back to life, but mother and daughter could not keep the secret. Pilgrims began to visit the area, and there were reports of miraculous healings. According to the diary of a friar who traveled in the area, construction of a shrine began in 1756 and was completed in 1764.
The Las Lajas Sanctuary, a gorgeous Roman Catholic shrine, is located in the Department of Nariño and the municipality of Ipiales in southern Colombia in the canyon of the Guáitara River.
The shrine
The first shrine—built of straw and wood—was apparently quite humble. A second and larger build replaced it in 1802. The faithful also built a bridge that connected the shrine to other side of the canyon, allowing access to the church.
The third and current iteration of the Gothic-style sanctuary was begun in 1916 and completed 33 years later in 1949. It rises 330 feet from the canyon floor and is connected to the opposite side of the canyon with a 160-foot-tall bridge.
Virgin Mary & Jesus behind the altar.

Behind the altar is an image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. No one knows who created it, but some say it appeared when Mueces showed a priest and local residents where her daughter had been brought back to life.
We hope you’ll join us on December 16th for our next installment.  if you’d like to provide feedback, we would welcome it.  You can choose to share your name or remain anonymous.

The Iconic

Name and location: Las Lajas Sanctuary – Narino, Columbia
Style: Neo-Gothic
Year completion:  1756-1764; 1802; 1916-1949 (3 builds)
Architect: Unknown