This church has a very interesting story indeed.
It has, over the years, become the tourism identifier for Bogotà and is known far
and wide as a most worthy representative of the city and its people.
The Cerro de Monserrate is the best known of the eastern hills of Bogota.
Alongside Gaudalupe, it is one of the guardian hills of the city. Monserrate has
an altitude of 3152 m (10,433 feet) and is located on the eastern ridge of the
mountains. The hills of Bogotá are sedimentary in nature, and are at least 16
million years old, with Cretaceous rocks belonging to Guadalupe Group, which
refers to the geological formation.
Until the mid- seventeenth century, it was known as Cerro de Las Nieves.
The ”Lord of Monserrate” Basilica has been a place of religious pilgrimage since
colonial times and has become a natural, religious, gastronomic attraction of the
You can climb the hill on a 2.5 kilometre footpath, by cable car or by funicular.
There are three ways to travel to the top of the
1. The preferred method is a 2.5km walk up
2. There is a funicular which actually only runs
for about 800 meters up the mountain.
3. Or, there is the Cable Cars.
The first church was built at the top of Monserrate Hill in Bogotá starting in
1640 and it was finally completed in 1657. It was originally under the care of the
Augustinians and it was also actually administered for a time by the Jesuits.
It was originally built as a shrine to the Black Virgin of Montserrat. The problem
was that as construction was progressing, something odd happened. The
Augustinians noticed that the pilgrims who came to visit the shrine were more
interested in the veneration of the “Fallen Christ” rather than our Lady of
Montserrat. They made the adjustment rather quickly. And the GBlack Virgin of
Montserrat was soon replaced by the image of the "Fallen Christ nailed to the
cross ", the work of master Pedro de Lugo Albarracin which was carved in
wood and inlaid with lead and silver.
A massive earthquake in 1917 completely destroyed the shrine. The
congregation re-built. The new church was designed by architect Arturo
Jaramillo Concha in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The church was
also built with the help of pilgrims who went ‘climbed up the hill’ to visit the
Fallen Lord of Monserrate with them at least one brick each as a penance and
to help in the construction. The church was finally completed and consecrated
The Black Madonna was believed to have been carved in Jerusalem by Saint Luke
in 50 AD and brought to Spain. It is a wooden sculpture. It is one of the most
famous Black Madonna statues in the world. In 718 AD it was moved to it present
location at Monserrat in Catalonia, Spain by the Benedictine Monks who held this
holy statue to avoid it falling into the hands of the Saracens. and in 1844 Pope Leo
XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia.
A little further into the church we enter the nave and the ‘rest’ of the church…
On closer inspection we
observe the rather plain
columns and the arches
spanning the church from
side to side which are all
indicative of the Gothic
Revival style of architecture.
The sanctuary itself is quite plain
and is dominated by the statue of
the “Fallen Christ” above the altar
in its place of honour. The altar
itself is quite plain but has a
striking tabernacle in gold and
silver. The whole is flanked by
two life sized statues of Angels
which appear to be guarding the
Once again outside the church itself there are two areas of interest.
The first being the walkways around the mountain top which have been given over
to The Way of the Cross with life sized statues of each station of the Way of the
A little further away, closer to the funicular station is a building in which there
are various souvenir shops and two rather impressive restaurants, one which
specializes in French Cuisine and the other in local cuisine. Both are quite well
respected and enjoy a well deserved reputation in the community.
We want to thank the following for their contributions to this article:
Photos provided by: J P Rémi Proulx, PEng.
Other materials and some photos provided by: www.wikipedia.org
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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