Las Lajas Sanctuary (in Spanish Santuario de Las Lajas) is a basilica church located in the southern Colombian Department of Nariño, municipality of Ipiales and built inside the canyon of the Guaitara River.
The cathedral is of Gothic revival architecture and was built from January 1, 1916 to August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers, replacing an old nineteenth-century chapel. The name Laja comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to floor tiles found in the Andes Mountains. There was a claim that in one such stone, an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen.
The story of the cathedral's creation is that in 1754 an Amerindian named Maria Mueces and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a very strong storm. They found refuge between the gigantic Lajas, and to Maria Mueces's surprise, Rosa exclaimed "the mestiza is calling me..." and pointed to the lightning-illuminated painting over the laja. The oldest account was recorded in the accounts of Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis's voyage through the southern region of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1756 and 1762.
In 1951 the Roman Catholic Church authorized the Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas virgin, and it declared the sanctuary a minor basilica in 1954.
Church history from Viva Travelhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/tandra2008/2801776372/
One day in 1750 (more or less), María Mueses de Quiñónez was walking from Potosí to Ipiales. Upon her back she carried her young, deaf-mute daughter Rosa. They decided to rest at Pastarán cave on the banks of the Río Guáitra. When doña María awoke from a nap, she discovered her daughter had wandered off. Upon finding her, Rosa said, “Mamacita, the Mestiza called to me!” She pointed to an image of a woman holding a child and two men.
Thus begins the story of Santuario Nuestra Señora de las Lajas.A small adobe chapel was built to protect the image of the Virgin in the shallow cave, forming the “altar screen” of the temple. Over the centuries it expanded to the impressive neo-Gothic structure that now spans the Guáitra River. Many Colombians and Ecuadorians make the pilgrimage to this site, beseeching the Virgin Mary for her intercession. The cliff walls are covered with thousands of plaques thanking her for miracles. (The Vatican only recognizes one.)