POPAYAN, a city of Colombia, capital of the department of Cauca, about 240 m. S.W. of Bogota, on the old trade route between that city and Quito, in 2 26' N., 76 49' W. Pop. (1870), 8485; (1906, estimate), 10,000. Popayan is built on a great plain sloping N.W. from the foot of the volcano Purace, near the source of the Cauca and on one of its small tributaries, 5712 ft. above the sea. Its situation is singularly picturesque, the Purace rising to an elevation of 15,420 ft. about 20 m. south-east of the city, the Sotara volcano to approximately the same height about the same distance south by east, and behind these at a greater distance the Pan de Azucar, 15,978 ft. high. The ridge forming the water-parting between the basins of the Cauca and Patia rivers crosses between the Central and Western Cordilleras at this point and culminates a few miles to the south. Popayan is the seat of a bishopric dating from 1547, whose cathedral was built by the Jesuits; and in the days of its prosperity it possessed a university of considerable reputation. It has several old churches, a college, two seminaries founded about 1870 by the French Lazarists, who have restored and occupy the old Jesuit convent, and a mint established in 1749. The city was at one time an important commercial and mining centre, but much of its importance was lost through the transfer of trade to Cali and Pasto, through the decay of neighbouring mining industries, and through political disturbances. Earthquakes have also caused much damage to Popayan, especially those of 1827 and 1834. The modern city has some small manufacturing industries, including woollen fabrics for clothing, but its trade is much restricted, and its importance is political rather than commercial.
Popayan was founded by Sebastian Benalcazar in 1 538 on the site of an Indian settlement, whose chief, Payan, had the unusual honour of having his name given to the usurping town. In 1558 it received a coat of arms and the title of " Muy noble y muy leal " from the king of Spain a distinction of great Various significance in that disturbed period of colonial history. It is noted also as the birthplace of Caldas, the Colombian naturalist, and of Mosquera, the geographer. There are hot sulphurous springs near by on the flanks of the volcano Purace, especially at Coconuco, which are much frequented by Colombians.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)