The original foundations for Bogota’s Catedral Primada, more properly called the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, were laid in 1538 when Spanish conquistadores first christened the old indigenous city, “Bogota.” Then a simple thatch-roofed hut on a muddy market plaza, it was gradually rebuilt into a sturdier adobe structure in the 1590s.
As the spiritual center of a city prone to earthquakes and social upheavals, it is no wonder that the national cathedral has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1823. Despite a long history of disasters, today’s neocolonial beauty, with its tasteful echoes of mission revival style, remains the final resting place of Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, the city’s Spanish founder.
The elegant whitewashed interior, with its stately rows of gilded Egyptian columns, isn’t the city’s most ornate by a long shot. But these arches overlook Colombia’s most important masses, and the place is packed on Sundays and religious holidays such as Christmas and Semana Santa.