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World Around Us The Salt Cathedral - Colombia’s Underground Wonders (In Spanish)    
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Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Spanish, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

The Cathedral of Salt started because of the devotion of the Zipaquirá people themselves. Zipaquirá has been a saline producer, and the miners themselves began with their faith to excavate far beneath the earth but didn’t want to do it alone, they wanted to do it with the blessing, with the protection of the Holy Virgin Mary.

Anywhere on our beautiful planet can be a glorious place to praise God. At the outskirt of the city of Zipaquirá in the Cundinamarca Department of Colombia, is located one of the most unique cathedrals in the world. It is an underground cathedral made of salt, known as the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. The Salt Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, patron saint of miners, which is another name of Virgin Mary.

Sitting in the midst of the 32 hectares of Salt Park, the Salt Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church constructed within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 meters beneath the Earth’s surface. Based on a 1932 sanctuary carved by hand in the tunnels, the Salt Cathedral was formally built in 1954. It was reconstructed in 1995. The finished cathedral is 120 meters in length, 22 meters in height, and has 5,500 square meters of surface area. It houses 8,000 people at once and welcomes 3,000 visitors every Sunday.

Salt Cathedral is sacred because the faith of the people makes it sacred. Really Salt Cathedral is a beautiful scene, where signs, where the architecture itself, where the local conditions, lead to an encounter with the Lord, an encounter with God, upon having the opportunity to stop, reflect, take advantage of the silence.

Why was the Cathedral built in a salt mine? Salt production has been the most important trade in Zipaquirá, known as the salt capital of Colombia. As early as the 5th century BC, the indigenous Muisca people had started the halite mines near Zipaquirá. The mines never stopped producing salt ever since.

Obviously in this work, it is really something very risky, because unfortunately, a miner knows that he goes in but he doesn’t know if he comes out, and this awakened devotion and therefore, really, the Cathedral. Then the story that we have, is that long ago, an image appeared to the miners then referring to that image. They had one picture for each of the fronts of work, and then they entrusted the work to a miner, to carve an image, as regarding that which had appeared to them.

Finally, about 90 years ago, a miner carved the image, which was proclaimed as the patron and gave him a niche in the mine. So, the story began when they started to dig four tunnels and… in the middle, they said... “Let's put an altar and let the image of the Virgin, that is who takes care of us, who guides us, who accompanies us ...”

And one of the very same miners precisely carved the image of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Rosary of Guasá. So there began the devotion. Then the city also began to have devotion to the Virgin of the Rosary of Guasá and finally the Bank of the Republic then took over the whole project, then financed the design already of the building itself of a beautiful cathedral.

The Salt Cathedral is 750 meters deep and contains three levels. The Vía Crucis at the entrance level represents stations at Jesus’ last journey in Jerusalem. The second level below the surface is the Dome, where the Choir loft and the Nartex “Pronaos” as located. The third level has the three naves symbolizing the arrival of Christ into the world and his departure. The entrance is both a natural spectacle and a spiritual learning process.

Because of the proximity of the surface, there is moisture and it makes the rock salt come out in that way, that it crystallizes and gives a very pretty natural decorative appearance. Very beautiful, as are the stalactites by such formations of humidity.

But as we advance, this starts disappearing, So, we will find that the salt rock itself, as I said, (is) a dark rock, because apart from salt there are other minerals. There is a beautiful cross at the entrance, which is oriented, or rather, has four sides to represent the four cardinal points, that is, Christ enfolds and welcomes all visitors of the four cardinal points of the Earth.

The Vía Crucis represents the 14 small chapels – the stations of cross. Each station is carved into the halite structure, with a cross and a few kneeling platforms, reminding people of the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus.

All the symbolism of each of the scenes of the Vía Crucis leads us to think of that man so special, Christ who saves me and... Then, to go through the Vía Crucis in a thoughtful, deliberate manner, reflecting on the biblical passage and also on the image you have in front of you, the sculpted wall or the image or the light, or the texture itself, which can show us the wall or the floor, because it helps you to think about your personal experience with Christ.

It is a little dark, but also there are games with lights just to have this meeting with the Lord represented in many ways. But that brings us simply to that, to have a personal encounter with Christ. This is what the Cathedral offers us, this is what makes it sacred, the faith of the people, the experience itself, the encounter we have with the Lord, contemplating various scenes of life of the Lord, of his public ministry.

Built in 1954 in an open salt mine, the Cathedral went through reconstruction from 1992 to 1995. The Industrial Investment Institute, together with Salinas Concession and the Colombian Society of Architects, called for a design contest for the new cathedral. Architect Roswell Garavito Pearl’s project won the competition and the new cathedral. One of the features of the new cathedral is the Dome, and soon after, Narthex, located on the middle realm of the architecture.

The light gives the idea of the heavens, it even looks like a planetarium. And... on this side, we see that the wall is completely rustic because it represents the imperfection of human on Earth. Then, in the heavenly and the earthly, the encounter with God in Heaven and human on Earth, what they represent here in the second level as we see here in the dome.

After the dome, it is a beautiful scene, depicting the encounter between God and human. The Narthex, which is the maze of purification that is in many ancient cathedrals, which also leads us to think about our limited capacity, about our condition as sinners, that we need to reconcile ourselves with God. So, the Narthex was like those labyrinths of purification, of reconciliation before approaching the Eucharistic celebration, the sacred celebration.

Descending one more level down in the Cathedral, we come to the three naves, representing respectively the birth, the life and the resurrection of Jesus. Here, one can see scenes of the Creation.

At this time we are in the nave of the birth, on this side, because we have the crib that represents it, brought just like the old Cathedral, together with other works that were here that they managed to recover to decorate the new Cathedral. And! ... And at the end then we have what is the baptistry, after the birth, we have a baptismal fountain.

Recall that in the first part, we found some white formations, an effect of moisture, normal to find that near the surface, curious 180 meters below, and more curious the form, if we can observe that from above to below it looks like a waterfall. So, for us, that is how the source of the Jordan River is represented where Jesus was baptized. Ah! ... Well, we arrive at the central nave.

The central nave well... shows us at first moment the Medallion of Creation, so here it is already depicted the encounter between human and God, beautiful ... the play of lights, the same position of the medallion leads us to meet exactly human with God and his encounter... And... as we direct our gaze to the front, we find the cross, the beautiful, luminous cross, the Lord's cross, but the light itself represents his resurrected presence to us.

Visitors can also enjoy the Cathedral’s great artistic pieces. Made in completely different styles, these art pieces express the same sublime nature of God’s love. At the end, the four large cylindric columns represent the four Evangelists.

We passed through the resurrection and found this work, very well known throughout the world, these famous works of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. It caused two Colombians to be inspired and they carved this, it is not a replica, it is an inspiration. So we can see that they show us God. They represent it to us with the hand much larger than that of humans because they refer to the power they have over us.

We also see an image of her because we all know the descent from different artists, although beautiful. But this piece is very native, it has very Indian features, even thinking about the same nature of the people who built the Cathedral of Salt, so with features very indigenous. But that lead us to recognize the lifeless body of the Lord to say, well, it's a deceased body, but his resurrected presence is here in among us.

“You are the salt of the Earth,” said the Lord. And the experience at the Salt Cathedral makes God’s work as well as the city of Zipaquirá itself forever memorable.

Well, to me more than anything, it was the idea of something that was cool, different from all the ordinary.

Ah well, and also this was one of the nominees for the wonders of the world.

For me the Salt Cathedral and especially the walk before arriving here, is opening up to us all these... The Vía Crucis, and to see the explanation that this has, I mean, what the artist and architect made, and how the passage from the Bible happens in pictures, just in that, in figures of salt and cross…

Thank you for your sincere company on today’s The World Around Us. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May Heaven’s spiritual provisions be showered upon you.
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