Didem Doğan

An escape from the city, the Salt Cathedral: a cross is not only a cross

The Salt Cathedral is built inside the salt mines in Zipaquira, an hour drive from Bogota. It is built inside the mine, you walk down 200 metres to reach it, a pilgrim destination for Christians, also the the most visited place in Colombia. 

As you pass the entrance you will feel the salt in your nose until you go out to open air. The biggest part of the visit tells you the story of the ‘way of the cross’, the fifteen steps, with a cross in each one - different from the others- fifteen steps that Jesus took after being condemned to death. As we start our visit we see the letters carved on the mine wall: INRI, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (abbreviated as INRI in depictions), the Roman had put these letters on the cross and you can see them in most of the Catholic churches above the cross. At the first step Jesus is condemned to death. Indeed he was condemned to death before the Jewish tribunal Sanhedrin. At the second step he carries the cross, they make him carry his own cross. At the third step he falls for the first time. At the fourth he meets his mother Mary. At the fifth Simon helps Jesus carry his cross. At the sixth Veronica wipes the face of Jesus with a veil. The depiction of Veronica’s veil is seen in most of the classical Western painters like Goya. At seventh step Jesus falls for the second time. At the eighth he meets the women of Jerusalem. At the ninth he falls for the third time. At the tenth they take out his garments. At the eleventh he’s on the cross, at the twelfth he dies on the cross, at the thirteenth he is taken of the cross and at the fourteenth he is put in the grave. 

Both Christians and Muslims believe that the body of Jesus disappeared, ascended to the sky and he will return to the world. We may not know if all these steps exactly took place but they show us an explanation of the suffering he went through, how he was humiliated. And it’s touching. This suffering has become maybe the central theme of Christianity, all monasteries built at the top of a mountain, maybe they symbolise the suffering that still goes on in this world, the pain Jesus had to suffer in the name of all humanity. So that cross is not only a cross, a way of killing a man, it has become an icon throughout the time of this ‘human suffering’. The main cross, the biggest one carved inside the wall is down the cathedral, you can see it from the terrace or walk downstairs and touch it on the wall. 

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