Salt of the Earth

Salt mines are usually associated with hard labor, not sublime spirituality. You can find both, however, deep underground in the Salt Dome of Zipaquirá , Colombia . There, 390 feet below the surface of the earth, you'll find the awe-inspiring Salt Cathedral, carved out of a massive 200,000-thousand-year-old salt deposit that extends for miles underground.

As you descend along a tunnel broad enough to drive through, you'll pass 14 small chapels, one for each of the stations of the cross, each beautifully carved into walls of salt that shimmer like ice in the suffused underground light. At the bottom of this descent, a stepped gallery overlooks three cavernous naves. A towering white crucifix is carved into the rock of the back wall, glowing white in the peaceful stillness. This breathtaking space can hold thousands of people, though it is rarely filled by the visitors and local parishioners who attend weekly Catholic mass.

Salt has been extracted from the Zipaquirá deposit since the pre-columbian era. Across the centuries, miners have prayed for protection from underground perils, and successive generations gradually sculpted an altar in the salt walls. In 1954, the first Salt Cathedral was carved, but later was closed as tunnels became unstable.
From 1991 to 1994, over 100 men worked to carve the spectacular new Salt Cathedral, just 500 meters from the old one. Located just 30 miles north of the capital, Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral is an underground oasis of peace for visitors seeking serenity in a nation so often wracked by violence. Descend with us into the calm depths of this sacred space, and feel the healing renewal of Colombia 's Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.

Length: 120 minutes
Shot with HDW F900 CineAlta Sony 24p