Virgin of Las Lajas

Virgin of Las Lajas (Colombia)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

One of the most extraordinary stories involving the apparitions of the Virgin Mary occurred in Colombia in the eighteenth century. A native woman named Maria Meneses de Quifiones was walking between the villages of Potosi and Ipiales one day in 1754. She took refuge from a storm in a cave at a place known as Las Lajas (“the rock slabs”). Some time later she again traversed the route, this time with her daughter Rosa, who could neither speak nor hear. While resting from the walk, Rosa pointed to the cave and spoke her first words, calling attention to a woman with a boy in her arms standing in the cave. A similar experience occurred the next time the two passed the cave sometime afterward. In each case, Maria saw nothing. Maria’s neighbors heard her relate the story with some skepticism.

A few days later, Rosa disappeared. Unable to find her in the village, Maria went to the cave and found her in front of the lady and playing with the child, who had left his mother’s arms. After seeing the woman, she and Rosa came to the cave on a number of occasions, adding candles and flowers. This activity continued sporadically until one day when the girl fell ill and died. In her anguish, Maria took the body of Rosa to the cave and pleaded with the Virgin to return her life. To her mother’s astonishment, the girl was resurrected.

When the villagers went to the cave the next day, they found it decorated with the picture of the Lady. In the picture, Jesus is in Mary’s arms. To either side is Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. Devotion to the location would develop slowly over the next two centuries, but eventually a good road was made to the area. A chapel was built in 1803, and later replaced by a larger church erected around the cave between 1916 and 1948.

As Maria’s story became better known to the outside world, skeptics rightly noted that there was opportunity for Maria, or perhaps some of the Dominican priests who had been evangelizing the region in the eighteenth century, to paint the figures. Questions about the picture led to tests on the rocks during the construction of the church. Several bore holes were drilled into the rock to remove small bits of the picture. Geologists who examined the rock noted that there was no paint or other pigment on the surface. The colors making the picture are the natural colors of the rock. No other tests have since been conducted on the rock.

Sources:

Coral, Bravo, and Luis Alberto. Historia de Nuestra Senora de Las Lajas. Pasto, Colombia: Tipografia y Litografia Cabrera, 1980.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.