I didn’t go to Chiquinquira for a nice, relaxing trip, to see the sights and be a tourist for the day. I went along with my friend’s mum to visit a grave site. She wanted to visit her mother, who had died when she was around 14. Despite the time that had passed, and the regular visits she made every year, my friend’s mum wept openly when we’d reached the grave stone.
Various other family members were there – they prayed, held hands and took photos in front of the grave which was cast into stone and set high above the ground on top of several others.
I hate to start on such a somber note, but it is kind of fitting that we went to Chiquinquira for such a reason, because Chiquinquira is considered to be one of the religious capitals of Colombia. The name, Chiquinquira even means “place of worship for the Gods” in the indigenous language of the ancient Muiscas. It’s a place of pilgrimage and is home to several significant places of worship, as the name suggests.
Given the country’s roots in Catholicism, one particularly important religious site in Chinquinquira is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, which houses the miraculous canvas of the Virgin Mary. After our walk through the grave site, we made our way to the Basilica. I’m not sure why, but I tend to feel incredibly uneasy in most churches – the immensity of the space, the unconditional devotion, it’s unnerving.
We made our way through the Basilica, which has even been visited by the Pope, during a Sunday service. We walked by pews, people on bent knees, their hands clasped in prayer.
Then we saw the reason why this is a place of pilgrimage each year. People from around the country, and the world, gather at the basilica to marvel at the canvas of the Virgin Mary. The canvas portrays the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus in her arms and a rosary in hand. The image was commissioned in 1560 by the Spanish Dominicans and it’s said that the image was poorly treated and faded. Several years later, the image reappeared, as though it has been restored and this is said to be the miracle of Virgin Mary in Chiquinquira.
Check out this neat little video for more information:
If you’re thinking about visiting Chinquinquira, head along during religious holidays like Easter when people from around the country, and the world, visit the basilica. It’s just a couple of hours north of Bogota and can be reached by car or bus.