Deep in a halite mountain near the modest city of Zipaquirá, Colombia, there exists one of the most unique churches in the whole world: the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.
Buried 200 m (650 ft) underground, the unusual Catholic church is located inside tunnels carved by rock salt miners decades ago, and is still used today for Mass.
[See also: Inside America’s Forgotten Catholic Theme Park]
Here’s what the main entrance looks like (click any image to view full size):
And here’s a glimpse of the main sanctuary:
Pretty incredible, huh?
And the picture doesn’t really do justice to the size of the place. Amazingly, the church regularly has 3,000 visitors on Sundays. Also, notice that the blue circle near the bottom of the picture has a sculpture of the creation of Adam (Adam is on the left reaching out his hand towards God).
The current Salt Cathedral is not the first church in the salt mines. The first church in the mines was carved out by the miners themselves around 1932 as a place for their daily prayers asking for protection before starting their dangerous work.
In the 1950s, a more extensive construction project began, with a larger church being dedicated in 1954 to Our Lady of the Rosary. This church had three naves: one with a giant cross, a second one with the Stations of the Cross and a rosary chapel, and a third dedicated to the birth and baptism of Jesus. It was large enough to accommodate 8000 worshippers.
Unfortunately, local authorities closed the church in 1990. But it wasn’t because they were against having a church in the salt mine! Rather, it was because they discovered structural problems and had safety concerns.
Nonetheless, because the local community loved the church so much, construction on yet another church in the salt mines began a year later in 1991. Built 60 m (200 ft) below the older one, this new church was opened in 1995.
It should also be noted that the church is not really a “cathedral” – it’s not the seat of a bishop. “Cathedral” is just a colloquial name to reflect the fact that it’s a beautiful church.