Colombia’s architecture is a heady mix of historic and modern, and has been heavily influenced by the styles of other countries, most recognisably Spain and Britain. While the big cities feature some stunning buildings, the countryside towns are where the real stars of the show are to be found. Read on to discover Colombia’s architectural masterpieces, their stories and their influences.
Bogotá, a city with over 10 million inhabitants, features a mixture of contemporary modern and Pre-Colombian architecture. It has also been heavily influenced by Spain, with the historic centre a time capsule to colonial days.
The Monserrate is a 3,152 meter (10,341 foot) mountain on the east side of Bogotá, above the La Candelaria neighbourhood. Its pure white cathedral can be seen for miles around all over the city and is considered by many to be one of its marvels. The mountain was considered a sacred place by the Pre-Colombian native inhabitants of the city, a people called Muisca. The first church was built on the top of the mountain in the 1620s, and the cathedral was constructed in the 17th century.
Plaza Bolivar has been Bogotá’s main square since Pre-Colombian times. It is surrounded by unique and beautifully crafted buildings such as the Archbishopric Cathedral of Bogotá and the Palacio Lievano. The Archbishopric Cathedral of Bogotá was constructed between 1807 and 1823 by descendants of Jesuit missionaries. The Palacio Lievano was designed by Juan Manuel Aruba and built between 1834 and 1848. These are iconic landmarks of the city and country, and are popular tourist destinations.
Popayan: Centro Historico de Popayan
The historic centre of Popayan is a fantastic demonstration of colonial architecture. The city was founded by Sebastian de Belalcázar in 1537, and little has changed since that time. The city was once an important stop-off for travellers and delivery drivers driving between Cartagena and Quito. This small colonial town now attracts a large number of visitors who make the journey to admire its historical colonial centre.
Nariño: Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary is located on a sacred land with a rich mystical history. In 1574, two women caught in a heavy storm on this spot claimed that they had seen a silhouette shape of the Virgin Mary illuminated by lightning. A shrine was established there in the mid-18thcentury, and the cathedral was built between 1916 and 1949. This Gothic Revival building is 11 meters (330 feet) tall, and is connected to the opposite canyon by a bridge 50 meters (160 feet) long.
Neiva: Edifico Nacional de Correos
The Edificio Nacional de Correos is located in Neiva, Huila. It was constructed in the 1920s as a homage part the town had played in the conflict with Peru. This Arabic-style building has a horseshoe arch, a dome and a large number of stained-glass windows. It is used as the town’s Tax Collection and Postal Administration building, and was designed by Alberto Wills Ferro with advice from Pablo de La Cruz.
Villa de Leyva: Casa Terracota
Casa Terracota is a house created by architect and environmentalist Octavio Mendoza. It was crafted from clay hardened in the sunlight and is effectively the biggest piece of pottery in the world. It is open to visitors, and has to be seen to be believed.
Cartagena: St Catherine of Alexandria
Cartagena is well known for its outstanding colourful architecture, and one of the old city’s most predominant landmarks is the St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral. Designed by Simon Gonzales and remodelled by Gaston Lafarge of France between 1577 and 1612, this cathedral has been damaged and repaired a number of times, by pirates, invaders and, most notably, Sir Francis Drake.
Medellin: Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica
The Romanesque Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica is Medellin’s most important cathedral. It was designed by French architect Emile Charles Carre and was built using 1,120,000 individual bricks. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains over 40 individual pieces of artwork, 15 sculptures and 76 stained-glass windows designed by Giovanni Buscaglione of France.