Las Lajas is very close to Ecuador. In fact, many people will visit this area of Colombia only if they are traveling between the two countries. We were not doing that so it was quite out of our way. Ironically, we had been in Ecuador a few years earlier, probably as close to Las Lajas as we were when in most of or Colombian travels but didn't even know about the cathedral. This area of Colombia certainly has an Ecuadorian feel to it and actually some of the cuisine of Ecuador is available here that you will not find elsewhere in the country. Quite appropriately we saw our only llama in Colombia here too. He was perched up on a hill looking down at the cathedral much like is common at Machu Picchu in Peru, even further south.
According to legend, in 1754 Maria Mueces and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a terrible thunder storm in this very gorge. The woman saw a vision of the Virgin Mary on a stone illuminated by the lightning and even heard it calling out to her, guiding her and her daughter to safety. This is the stuff that cathedrals are built over and so it was done. Of course, since it was an indigenous woman and she evidently said “the mestiza is calling” that the Catholic church jumped the gun here but hey, let's not argue over apples and pears, there was a vision of some sort and a religious institution of some kind was needed to add more credence to it.