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Explore Colombian Churches: Tourist Etiquette and Essential Tips

Santuario de Las Lajas

Updated on 02/19/2024

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I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

Do you know how to explore churches in Colombia without offending anyone? In this blog, you will learn the etiquette rules for visiting churches in Colombia while respecting local customs..

The Importance of Respect in Churches

In Colombia, you can discover how churches are much more than simple religious buildings. Here, faith is lived with intensity. 

These churches are like treasures that preserve the country’s history, and each church is like a chapter in Colombia’s past, a connection to generations that came before. 

These structures are guardians of Colombian culture. If you ever decide to visit churches, remember to be respectful of local customs to care for the valuable legacy and live in harmony.

Before discussing specific rules, you should first understand a little context about religion in Colombia.

Religion in Colombia

  • Religion in Colombia has a long and complex history, dating back to the pre-Columbian era in the 5th century (before the arrival of colonizers) when indigenous peoples had their own worldviews and culture. 
  • With the arrival of the Spanish, Christianity was imposed as the official religion, and many churches and cathedrals were built to evangelize the population.
  • There was also resistance from Afro-Colombians, who retained some of their ancestral practices, such as the worship of saints and spirits.
  • Today, Colombia is a predominantly Catholic and religious country, with 57.2% of the population identifying with this religion, according to the 2019 census, making it the most popular religion in Colombia.
  • Religious diversity in Colombia is reflected in the variety of churches and temples found in the national territory, from imposing cathedrals to rural chapels and mosques.

Etiquette Tips for Visiting Churches

Next, I will show you some general rules to consider for your visit to churches and avoid misunderstandings.

Appropriate Attire for Visiting Churches

Wearing appropriate clothing is important because it shows respect for religion and culture. It also sets an example for others on how to behave in these places. Appropriate attire depends on the type of church, the weather, and the occasion.

  •  If you are going to participate in church meetings, I recommend wearing formal clothing that covers the chest, abdomen, shoulders, and knees, such as short or long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • If you are just passing through, you can dress as you like, avoiding clothing that is too tight, transparent, very short, low-cut, torn, or with offensive messages. Also, avoid accessories such as hats, caps, sunglasses, or headphones inside churches. People usually remove these accessories before entering.

Behavior During Mass

If you want to participate in mass, the ceremony held in churches, or even if you enter the church during mass, you should consider the following:

  • It is common to see people making the sign of the cross with their hand when entering and leaving the church. For many believers, this represents the love of Jesus. In fact, it is common to see them make this sign everywhere.
  • Actions such as talking, laughing, eating, drinking, chewing gum, or smoking inside churches and especially during ceremonies can be considered mockery and lack of respect in the local culture.
  • You should stay in the church until the end of mass and exit in an orderly and calm manner.
  • If you are bringing children with you, make sure to keep them calm and control their behavior to prevent them from interrupting others. 
  • Pets are not allowed inside, and they cannot roam the premises.
  • It is recommended to turn off or silence your phone and other electronic devices and not use them during mass. 
  • Recording or taking photos of monuments and architectural details is allowed with permission and done respectfully. 
  • Avoid using flash and refrain from photographing attendees unless you have their consent.

Tips for Foreign Visitors

If you are a foreign visitor, before visiting a Colombian church, research its historical value, architecture, art, as well as its religious and cultural significance. Use reliable sources such as books and websites. 

You can also consult with priests or historians to gather information. This preparation will enhance your appreciation and understanding during the visit, ensuring a more enriching experience.

Avoiding Inappropriate Behavior in Churches

You must consider that it is a sacred and very important place for believers, so you should avoid any behavior that may offend, such as:

  • Criticizing the culture or discussing religious beliefs, let alone causing conflicts.
  • Kissing or engaging in any other type of public displays of affection, as this is considered inappropriate in a religious setting.
  • Touching, moving, manipulating, or damaging objects such as candles, relics, or religious images.
  • Making obscene gestures, blaspheming, or engaging in any kind of disrespectful behavior towards the religion.

Top 5 Best Churches in Colombia to Visit

  • Santuario de Las Lajas – Ipiales, Nariño
  • Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá – Zipaquirá, Cundinamarca
  • Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Medellín- Medellín, Antioquia
  • Iglesia de San Francisco – Cartagena, Bolívar
  • Iglesia la Ermita del Río – Cali, Valle del Cauca

If you want to continue exploring more iconic churches with significant historical value in Colombia, we invite you to check out our guide to churches in Colombia.

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia.I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia.For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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