It would be nearly impossible to visit the southwest department of Cauca’s capital, Popayan, without getting a look at the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Assumption.
Situated in the historical district on the border of Parque Caldas, the Basilica is the most immediately recognizable symbol of the city.
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The grandiose white building features neoclassical columns, a 131-foot high dome, and ornate plaster inlay ceilings. The church is also connected to Popayan’s famous Torre de Reloj (clock tower), which was added to the church between 1673 and 1682 and which master Colombian poet Guillermo Valencia called “the nose of Popayan.”
The original Basilica, made of mud and straw, opened on January 13, 1537, on the official day Popayan was founded. Since then the church has taken many forms but its current incarnation was consecrated in 1906, with some slight remodeling since, particularly after the disastrous earthquake which struck Popayan in 1983.
Italian architect Friar Serafin Barbetti designed the church itself but the impressive dome was designed and constructed by local artist Don Adolfo Dueñas.
The church is the seat of the Archdiocese of Popayan and plays an important role in Popayan’s annual Holy Week celebrations. The Basilica holds many services and events throughout the week and the Saturday night processions begin and end there.
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