Zipaquirá and the salt mines
The salt was an important asset for the Muisca tribes. Their salt mines and actual Cathedral are obligate visits when in Bogotá.
Zipaquirá lies between beautiful hills with native vegetation. It is the salt capital of Colombia and belongs to the Cundinamarca Department. The center of the place is a national monument, there are remarkable buildings all around the plaza of the communards: The main cathedral, built between 1805 and 1920, the neoclassical building of the salt administration and the town hall, is nearby the chapel de Los Dolores.
The city of Zipaquira was founded on July 18, 1600, by the Spanish Luis Henriquez. “Chicaquicha” was the original name of the Indian village, it is an indigenous word that, according to studies, means “foot of the Zipa”. Zipa was the name for the chief of the tribe.
The original indigenous population lived in the actual ¨PuebloViejo¨. In 1692 was moved to its actual settlement. This has led to some historians claiming that Zipaquira was founded that year. The point of “PuebloViejo” is 183 mts. higher and 1,500 meters north of the city.
The town of Zipaquira, which belongs to the department of Cundinamarca, is only 49 kilometers north of Bogota. The city is 2,650 meters above sea level, and with an average temperature of 14 º C. The population is approximately 100,000 inhabitants and its economy is based on the salt extraction, chemical, and glass industries
The center of the place is a national monument, there are remarkable buildings all around the plaza of the communards: The main cathedral, built between 1805 and 1920, the neoclassical building of the salt administration and the town hall, is nearby the chapel de Los Dolores.
The Salt Cathedral
In the old days the miners when they opened the galleries, built small chapels for their holy lady the “Virgen del Rosario de Guasa”, “Guasa” is an indigenous word from the Chibcha language, it means tunnels or caves. One day the miners had invited a priest to celebrate a Thanks-giving mass in the mines. This priest knew about the underground salt church in Poland. He said to the miners: whether there is a salt church in Poland, why in Zipaquirá we better build a large cathedral.
The miners thought the idea was fantastic, and so they started work on 1950, but they made the adjustment in nineteenth-century tunnels, the rooms were so big that you had to support the salt cathedral with wood and tie the pillars with big iron cables. But the damp rotten the wood and salt rusted the iron cables, the salt cathedral slowly began to fall. In 1992 they had to be closed. The old salt cathedral was a symbol for Zipaquirá, everyone said: we cannot remain without the salt cathedral, we have to build a new one. On the third and lowest level of the Minne, there was a gallery that had finished its commercial work, from there they had taken out 250,000 tons of salt, it was a technical building, so it was decided how they could make the change from mining field to the cathedral for that, they did an architecture competition, and the architect who won this competition is Roswell Garavito from Bogotá. The new salt cathedral was opened on December 16, 1995. It has been created with three large ships, where you can see the largest cross below the earth in the world. The tourists think that the new salt cathedral is so beautiful, that it can be the eighth wonder of the world.