Colombia:

Did you know that there is a cathedral built inside a salt mine located about 200 meters underground? It was built in the caverns and tunnels left behind by miners two centuries ago. In 1990, 127 miners, plus a handful of sculptors were brought in to build the current version of the cathedral — located 60 meters below the original cathedral.
 
Amazing, right?
 
Do you know where we need to travel to in order to visit this beautiful salt mine cathedral?
 
The right answer is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá in Colombia.
 
Initially, miners prayed in a small sanctuary built inside the caverns. There, they would pray to the Virgin of the Rosary of Guasá, the patron saint of miners, to protect them from toxic gases, explosions and other accidents. That first sanctuary was built in the 1930s.
“The work was very dangerous,” Juan Pablo García, a cathedral administrator, said of mining the Zipaquirá salt deposits, where commercial mining began in 1815. “Every day that they came out of the mine alive was a reason for giving thanks.”
 
After extracting salt, the miners left in their wake a vast network of grottoes, pits and passageways. Retired mining engineer Jorge Castelblanco says most exhausted mines are simply abandoned and sealed up. But Zipaquirá’s miners and church officials — influential figures in this deeply Catholic country — persuaded the Colombian government to convert the empty spaces into a church in 1953.
 
Structural problems forced its closure in 1990. That’s when Castelblanco, 127 miners, plus a handful of sculptors were brought in to build the current version of the cathedral — located 200 feet below the original cathedral. (The first sanctuary from the 1930s had been closed earlier because it was unstable).
 
It was a massive undertaking. Just carving the Stations of the Cross into the walls took five years. Another challenge was transferring the massive rock salt altar from the old site to the new. It weighed 16 tons and workers had to cut it into three pieces to make the move.
 
The church is also breathing new life into the local economy. Salt mining in Zipaquirá has dwindled, but now tourists and religious pilgrims flock here. The site receives about 600,000 visitors annually.
 
And although it’s not among the Seven Wonders of the World, Colombia’s Congress proclaimed the Salt Cathedral to be “the first wonder of Colombia.”
 

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