Our Lady Of The Pilar.
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Our Lady of the Pillar

  What do you know about Our Lady of the Pillar? Have you heard of her? Except for Hispanic peoples, especially Spaniards, and lovers of Hispanidad, she is most likely not as widely known as the Blessed Virgin Mary of other famous shrines. Yet her story pre-dates the gospels and was told long before the gospels were written. This is an interesting story, seemingly unbelievable, about Mary's first apparition in history.

The tradition tells us that seven years after the death of Jesus, on January 2, 40 A.D., The Apostle St. James the Elder, brother of St. John, sat tired and disappointed by the bank of the Ebro River in what is now Zaragoza, Spain. The people of the Roman province of Hispania (Spain/Iberian Peninsula) were not open and receptive to the Good News of Jesus and St. James was ready to give up his efforts to evangelize them. On that January day the Blessed Virgin Mary, still living in Palestine, appeared to James atop a column or pillar of stone. With encouraging words, she assured him that the people of Hispania would become Christians and that their faith would be as strong and durable as the pillar on which she stood. To remember the visit and promise of the Virgin Mary, the first Marian shrine was built around the pillar. And James began to convert the pagans of early Spain.

Many will automatically think this is just another pious myth among many Catholic legends and an interesting story for tourist guide books, or another excuse for celebrating a weeklong fiesta around the time of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, which is celebrated on October 12. Some will suspect this is simply one more occasion for selling glitzy, chintzy Marian souvenirs. Why would an enlightened person of this modern era believe such a story? Yet neither natural nor religious reasoning have been able to discredit and discard the story of Mary of the Pillar and relegate her to unbelief and something unworthy of genuine devotion.

On the positive side, it is interesting to note that the German Augustinian stigmatist and visionary of the early 19th century, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, comments on Mary of the Pillars appearance to James. With rich detail she describes the Zaragoza event in chapter 14 of The Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Some, even with scientific reasoning, might dismiss any claims of sincere devotion of Marian devotees. The story of Our Lady of the Pillar does seem unbelievable, unless you grew up with it or have an unshakeable faith. Anyone who was raised in Zaragoza or somewhere in Spain, anyone who has grown up knowing Our Lady of the Pillar, is intimately linked to her as any Mexican person is to Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any Irish Catholic is to Our Lady of Knock. The same is true of Lourdes and the French, or Fatima and the Portuguese, or Czestochowa and the Polish.

  The reality

For devotees of these and other Marian apparitions, Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus and of the Church; she is above all their mother--and our mother. Some might even be lapsed Catholics, but they will at least once a year on her feast day visit her church or pray to her.

Our Lady of the Pillar has a special place in the lives of many, not the least of which are those who bear her name. In Spain and in Latin America the name 'Pilar' is commonly given to girls at baptism. At one time in Spain almost everyone wore a medal of Nuestra Senora del Pilar. Our Lady of the Pillar is also immensely important in the history and mission of several religious congregations and movements, especially the Marianist Family founded by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Devotion to Mary is something that cannot be dismissed simply with psychological and sociological explanations. This devotion goes beyond collective pride, national identity, and the need to belong. It is something more mysterious, something that transcends time, cultures, and even reason itself.
We learn to live with the seeming contradiction between reason and faith, between believing Mary is our mother and thinking all this is unbelievable. After all, faith is about love, mystery, and life. And those are real, even if we cannot understand them. Just because we do not fully comprehend all this and cannot fully explain it, does not mean it does not exist.
Let the thought and the image of Our Lady of the Pillar be a forceful reminder that we walk in the footsteps of St. James and the early Christians of Hispania in following Christ. May she be for us a pillar of faith.

Perhaps the conclusion penned by Franz Werfel in his popular novel, Song of Bernadette, says it best: "For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. For those who believe, no explanation is necessary."

The First Marian Shrine: Our Lady of the Pillar

The sentiment of Zaragozans toward their beloved Virgen del Pilar the Virgin of the Pillar is quite different from the ordinary homage paid to a favorite saint or even to other Marian devotions elsewhere in the Catholic world. It is an inheritance from their forefathers, a love that is born with them and ends only with their deaths. It is interwoven with their patriotism, with their nationality, with their home life, and with their daily tasks and amusements, and it is an ever-recurring theme in their popular songs.

The faithful of Zaragoza repair to her shrine in their joys and in their sorrows. They speak to her not in the ordinary forms of prayer, for she is not far away in Heaven, but here on earth among them, in her own shrine where she has dwelt for over nineteen hundred years. They converse with her as with a friend, and with the confident faith of children.

Viva la Virgen del Pilar was the rallying cry that filled Zaragozan hearts with courage and strengthened their arms when, in 1809, they had to fend off the Napoleonic invasions of Spain. Then, frail women, faint with fatigue, disease and hunger, fired the guns and defended their homes, barricading doors and windows with the fallen bodies of their husbands, parents, and children.

Then, the greatest kindness one could show the wounded, when all hope had fled, was to take them to the Capilla Santa the Holy Chapel where they could look upon the little brown face of La Pilarica the Virgin of the little pillar and speak with her, kiss the pavement of her house, and die breathing her name.

Saint James the Apostle

That Our Lady appeared to the Apostle Saint James, patron of Spain, is a well-founded tradition and forms part of Zaragozas history and patriotism. The church of the Pillar was the first shrine ever raised in Our Ladys honor, and every Zaragozan, rich or poor, ignorant or learned, knows that the shrine will last with the Holy Faith until the end of the world.

In support of this conviction is the fact that since the citys conversion to Christianity in Apostolic times, the sacred image has escaped injury, the rituals of the Catholic Faith have been celebrated unceasingly in the chapel where Saint James first officiated, and its altars have never been defiled by pagan rites despite all the centuries of war, rampage, and desecration by the Romans, Goths, Moors, or Vandals. Even time, the great destroyer, has failed to leave its marks on the statue:  Although nearly twenty centuries old, it shows not the slightest sign of deterioration.


Traditions of extreme antiquity attest to the Christianization of Spain by Saint James the Apostle. It is supported by such writers as Saint Hypolite, in his treatise De duodecim apostolis, by Saint Isidore, and by the Venerable Bede, and it is verified by the ancient Spanish liturgy, the Rite of Toledo, the so-called Visigothic or Mozarabic liturgy. More recent and better known to American Catholics are the writings of Venerable Mary of Agreda, which contain a worthy account of his apostolate in the Iberian peninsula and, more specifically, about Our Ladys miraculous visit to Saint James in Zaragoza during her lifetime.

Most impressive are the countless pilgrimages to the tomb of the Saint by the entire Christian world since long centuries ago, whereby we know that it was generally held not only that Saint James spread the Gospel in Spain but that after his martyrdom in Jerusalem, his body was returned to Spain and buried next to his disciples in the little Galician town of Iria Flavia where he had dwelled and whence he used to set forth on his journeys to preach of Christ throughout the Peninsula.

His body was afterwards removed from Iria Flavia, now called Padron, to the nearby village of Liberum Domum, which later became the famous Compostella, that is, Field of the Star, where, tradition states, a miraculous star appeared about the beginning of the ninth century over the Saints burial site, leading to the discovery of his tomb, hidden during the first centuries of Mohamedanism. The Zaragozans further tell us that Saint James came to [the village of] Caesar Augusta, later Zaragoza, and founded the first church of the Pilar, and this is the story, handed down from generation to generation, sung by poets and immortalized by artists, of the Virgins gift to the city of Zaragoza. . 
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After having preached the Gospel of our Divine Lord and Master in Judea and Samaria, Saint James traveled to Spain to spread the Faith there. He disembarked at Carthagena and started to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

His simple eloquence won the hearts of the rude Iberians, who came flocking in large numbers to receive the Sacrament of Baptism from his hands. In Andalusia, Castile, Galicia, and Portugal he met with the same success, and so when he finally entered Zaragoza his fame had traveled before him, and the light of Faith spread quickly throughout the city.

Our Lord Sends Our Lady To Zaragoza

On the night of the second of January, forty years after the birth of our Savior, Saint James was walking along the banks of the river Ebro with seven disciples whom he had won to the Faith in Zaragoza. The sky was aglow with myriads of stars, the toils of the day were over, both man and beast had gone to rest. Inspired by the calm beauty of the night and the contemplation of the glories of the Heavenly dome, in whose wonders they saw the Masters hand, they spoke reverently of the sublime mysteries of the Divinity.

At the same hour the Blessed Virgin was in Jerusalem, praying to her Son for Saint James, who, she knew, would soon be called upon to give his life for the Faith. While she prayed, her Divine Son appeared to her and, as the Venerable Mary of Agreda relates in her Mystical City of God, He commissioned her to go to Zaragoza:

As thou already knowest, it is necessary for My glory, that the Apostles labor with My grace, and that at the end they must follow Me to the cross and to the death I have suffered for the whole human race. The first one who is to imitate Me therein is My faithful servant James, and I will that he suffer martyrdom in this city of Jerusalem. In order that he come hither, and for other purposes of My glory and thine, I desire thee to visit him in Spain, where he is preaching My name. I desire, My Mother, that thou go to Zaragoza where he now is, and command him to return to Jerusalem. But before he leaves that city, he is to build a temple in thy name and title, where thou shalt be venerated and invoked for the welfare of that country, for My glory and pleasure, and that of the most Blessed Trinity.

Later, according to the same Venerable Mary of Agreda, Our Lord added:

I give you My royal word that I shall look with special clemency and fill with blessings all those who, with devotion and humility, call upon Me through thy intercession in that temple. In thy hands have I deposited and consigned all My treasures; as My Mother, who holds My place and power, thou canst signalize that place by depositing therein the riches and promising in it thy favors; for all will be fulfilled according to thy will and pleasure.

Having spoken these words, He disappeared, and a band of angels, singing canticles of joy, filled the room. Raising Mary on their wings, they bore her through the air.

Saint James, near the banks of the Ebro, knelt in prayer with upturned face while his companions, fatigued with the labors of the day, had closed their heavy eyelids and, like the Apostles before them, slept while their master prayed.

A flash of light suddenly lit up the fields, sounds of Heavenly music filled the air, and the seven disciples, roused from their slumbers, gazed with wonder and fear at the apparition before them. Seated on a throne of light, borne aloft by angels, was Mary, whom they supposed was in Jerusalem.

Angels knelt around her on transparent clouds while others, playing mystical harps, sang the sublime words with which, forty years before, the Archangel Gabriel had saluted her in her home in Nazareth, Ave Maria Gratia plena, Dominus tecum.

Saint James, seeing this vision in ecstasy, saw the angels suspend the throne in front of him and place themselves before it. Mary, taking from the hands of the Seraphim a small column upon which stood a beautiful statue of herself with the Infant Jesus in her arms, showed it to Saint James, gave him her blessing, and said, James, servant of the Most High, blessed be thou by Him, and may He fill thee with His Divine Grace.

To this the angels answered, Amen, and she continued: My son James, the Most High and Mighty God of Heaven has chosen this place that you may consecrate and dedicate here a temple and house of prayer where, under the invocation of my name, He wishes to be adored and served, and all the faithful who seek my intercession will receive the graces they ask if they have true faith and devotion, and in the Name of my Son I promise them great favors and blessings, for this will be my temple and my house, my own inheritance and possession, and in testimony of my promise, this pillar will remain here, and on it my own image that, in this place where you will build my temple, will last and endure with the Holy Faith until the end of the world. This must be done at once, and when your work is accomplished, you will return to Jerusalem where it is the will of my Divine Son that you make the sacrifice of your life where He gave up His for the redemption of mankind.

She then commanded the angels to place the column with its sacred image where it stands to this day, and as the angelic cortage disappeared, Saint James and his disciples praised God and offered to Him the first shrine ever dedicated to His Blessed Mother.

Saint James builds the first chapel and others follow
Soon after, Saint James and his disciples built a modest chapel, sixteen feet long by eight feet wide, to enclose the Virgins gift. This chapel succumbed to time and the elements and was replaced by several others, but the sacred column has always remained in the spot where the angels placed it.

The piety of the faithful and the offerings of pilgrims, whose numbers increased steadily to multitudes, attracted to the shrine by the fame of the miracles attributed to the Virgin of the Pillar, eventually raised a church that remained until the end of the seventeenth century, when Charles II, the last monarch of the Austrian dynasty to occupy the Spanish throne, built the splendid edifice that now enshrines the column and statue. The first stone was laid on the feast of Saint James in 1686. In 1753, King Ferdinand VI engaged the celebrated architect Ventura Rodriguez to build the sumptuous chapel in which the statue is now preserved.

Above the high altar is a carving of the Virgin extending her hand to the Apostle, and over an altar to the right of this is a picture of the seven disciples of Saint James. On the left is the altar where, under a rich canopy of silver, against a dark background thickly studded with diamonds, stands the miraculous pillar with the statue of the Blessed Virgin and the Infant Jesus.

Miraculous attributes

Scientists, attempting to match the granite of which the pillar is made, have been able to find similar, but not identical, granite and only in other parts of the world. The statue of the Virgin is made of a material not found on this earth. By a miraculous divine action, no dust ever settles on it, so for almost 2,000 years the statue has never needed dusting.

Universally honored and loved

A silver railing of exquisite workmanship runs the entire length of the three altars, and the walls of jasper and marble glitter with offerings of gold, silver, and precious stones which, flashing in the light of the numerous silver lamps, fairly dazzle the eyes of the spectator.

But the Zaragozan sees only La Pilarica and the costly gifts that have been offered in faith, devotion, and love to adorn her holy chapel: gifts from kings, queens, princes, and noble knights who have prayed at this shrine throughout the centuries: gifts from pilgrims who have come on foot from afar to lay their offerings at her feet: gifts from saints who left their jewels here before retiring from this world for ever: gifts from humble peasants, from toilers of the deep, and from the poorest of Gods poor, who saved and fasted for years to be able to offer a token of their love to La Patrona the Patroness.

It was in this church that the old kings of Aragon knelt to take their oaths of fidelity to God and to the people. Isabel the Catholic, who helped Columbus with his journey to the Americas, went frequently to Zaragoza and gave priceless jewels to the treasury of the Virgin: the Emperor Charles V, heavy with the weight of crowns, visited Our Lady of the Pillar and laid his sceptre at her feet before retiring to the monastery at Juste; Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, all left memorials at the shrine, and Don Juan of Austria had such a devotion for the Virgin of the Pillar that he wished his heart to be buried in the crypt of the holy chapel.

The holy chapel is never unoccupied for a moment from daybreak until the doors are closed at night. The crowds come and go continually. Very few people pass the church without entering, if only to salute La Patrona! and depart.

Every now and then one sees an acolyte in cassock and surplice wending his way through the groups of worshippers, carrying in his arms a tiny baby, perhaps only a few weeks old. This is the one occasion in his life when a son of Zaragoza is privileged to touch the sacred statue; the baby, its innocent face wet with the waters of Baptism, is raised in the arms of the chaplain and pressed against the face of La Pilarica.

There are chaplains whose time is entirely given to the services in the holy chapel; four of these guard the vestments and jewels of the Virgin, which they change according to the rituals of the Church and the festivals of the year. No others are allowed to touch the statue or to have access to the mantles and ornaments that belong to her.

Shrine ceremonial

Every morning, as the first streaks of dawn break through the sky and the last stars have faded, one of the chaplains sings the Mass of the Infants, so called because the choir is composed of eight small boys, Infantes, who are dedicated to the service of the holy chapel and serve the many Masses that are celebrated daily.


These boys wear a special uniform during the liturgy and processions. This Mass is the first of the innumerable prayers that are murmured unceasingly from this moment until the echo of the last notes of the Salve Regina die away in the vast arches at nightfall. It is considered a great privilege among the Zaragozan families to have a son as an Infante of Our Lady of the Pillar.

The Feast of the Virgin of the Pillar is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony on October 12 [Ed.: note the dates connection to Our Lady of Fatimas miracle of the Sun], beginning with the Mass of the Infants at four in the morning. The city puts on holiday attire for a week, all work is suspended, and visitors pour in from all parts of the Peninsula to make their devotions and take part in the celebrations at the famous shrine.

On October 11, bands parade the streets and fireworks are set off at intervals. This is the formal announcement to the public that the festivals are about to commence. Trains arrive every half hour loaded with passengers, and cars by the thousands come from every corner of Aragon and the remotest parts of Spain.

As early as two o:clock on the morning of the 12th, the crowds begin to enter the church, and when the beautiful voices of the Infantes sing the first notes of the Mass, the edifice is so packed that it is difficult to move. At the conclusion of the Masses the worshippers stream out at one end while others stream in at the other, and this continues throughout the entire day. It is virtually impossible to estimate how many come to pray on this occasion.

The Doors Are Thrown Open

When the sun has set and night begins to fall, the bells peal a joyous call to the Salve Regina, all the doors are thrown wide open, and the church soon fills to capacity, without apparently diminishing the immense throngs that have gathered in the Plaza del Pilar.

All classes are there, peasants in picturesque costumes who proclaim their native places; children, some in fine clothes, others in tatters; women, some wearing the latest French hats and others with their heads enveloped in traditional mantillas or in old shawls; working people from the vicinity, and tourists with Baedeckers in hand.

All sorts of faces mingle with throngs of soldiers, priests, and Infantes, all pressing as one moving mass to hear the solemn notes of the Salve, the last act of devotion of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.

Outsiders may look upon this tradition as absurd and impossible, but the Zaragozan sees nothing unusual in it; he dwells in an atmosphere of saintly love, and the inhabitants of Heaven do not seem so very far away from him, for he has evidences of their presence on all sides; he lives with them with a familiarity that might appear irreverent were it not for its genuine simplicity.

There is no place in the world where devotion to the Holy Mother of God is so deeply rooted as in the heroic city of Zaragoza, where her statue has been defended, with the lives of thousands of her children, and where it is firmly believed that her revered statue will surely endure with the Holy Faith until the end of the world.

Our Lady of the Pillar, pray for us!
Feast day: October 12

Traditional date of apparition: January 2, 40 A.D.

Shrine church: This is the first church built in Mary's honor. The present basilica church was built between 1681 and 1961. The previous church was destroyed by fire in 1434. The frescoes were done by Francisco Goya in the early nineteenth century.

Statue: The statue atop the pillar of stone is about one foot in height and depicts the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus, who is holding a dove in his hand. The original statue was destroyed in the 1434 fire. The present statue dates from the mid-fifteenth century. Mantos are skirt-shaped cloaks that drape the pillar on which the statue stands. The use of mantos began in the early sixteenth century, and currently number about 300.

Significant miracle: During the Civil War of the 1930s, two aerial bombs were dropped on the shrine church, but neither exploded. Those bombs now hang on the shrine wall.

Patroness titles: Patroness of Spain, Patroness of All Hispanic Peoples--by declaration of Pope John Paul II in 1984.

Perhaps the oldest devotion to Our Lady in Europe is the devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar. In Spain, Pilar is a popular girls name, as is Mercedes for Our Lady of Mercy. (In fact, General Franco named one of his daughters Pilar, just as one of the Carmelite Martyrs written of in this issue was named Sister Maria del Pilar.)

In the year AD 36, while She was yet on earth, Our Lady bilocated and appeared to Saint James on the banks of the river Ebro, near the city of Caesar-Augusta (now Zaragoza or Saragossa). She appeared, accompanied by celestial music, on a six-foot pillar of jasper. Her purpose was to comfort and encourage St. James and his disciples. Our Lady commanded that a chapel be built on the spot in Her honor and She promised Her assistance to those who invoke Her. The Apostle was quick to carry out the wishes of the Queen of Apostles.

The present church, built by Charles II the late 1600s, is the last of several replacements and enlargements of the original edifice. King Ferdinand VI, in 1753, commissioned an architect to build the special side chapel which houses Our Ladys pillar. On the pillar, whose jasper cannot be matched anywhere in the world, is erected a fifteen-inch statue of Our Lady with the child Jesus, Who holds a dove (cf. Canticle of Canticles 2:14 & 6:8). One tradition says that Our Lady Herself gave the statue to Saint James, while another states that Saint James commissioned it. Regardless of its origin, many miracles attest to Heavens predilection for the relic. Among its many prodigies is the fact that, in almost 2,000 years, the statue has never needed dusting.

No one is allowed to touch the statue, except for the four priests assigned to its care and clothing, and newly baptized infants who are lifted up so that the new children of God might touch the image of their heavenly Mother. The pillar itself has been covered with silver and bronze, except for an opening where pilgrims may venerate it, and the spot is quite worn away from the millions of kisses it has received. The choirboys and acolytes who serve the chapel form a special group of boys, known as Infantes. It is considered a great privilege for a family to have a son in the special uniform of the Infantes.

In 1936, the Reds dropped bombs on the shrine, but the two that hit the church failed to detonate. This incident showed the perfidy of the Reds and the power of Our Ladys protection.

Zaragoza (Saragossa), Spain (40 A.D.)
Traditionally Approved

40 - 999  1400 - 1499 
1000 - 1099  1500 - 1599 
1100 - 1199 1600 - 1699
1200 - 1299 1700 - 1799
1300 - 1399 1800 - 1899

Vatican Approved
Bishop Approved
Coptic Approved
Approved for Faith Expression
Apparitions to Saints
Unapproved Apparitions
 Our Lady of the Pillar (Nuestra Senora del Pilar)


According to legend, in the early days of the Church on January 2, 40 AD, the Apostle James the Greater was proclaiming the Gospel in Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza) by the river Ebro, when he saw Mary miraculously appearing in the flesh on a pillar calling him to return to Jerusalem. The pillar, which was being carried by angels, is believed to be the same one venerated in Zaragoza, Spain today. Miraculous healings have been reported at the location.


 St. James the Greater is born the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John the Evangelist.
30 AD
 James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to begin traveling (Mt.4:21-22, Mk.1:19-20). According to Mark, James and John were called Boanerges, or the "Sons of Thunder" (3:17).
33 AD
 Death of Christ . After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his Apostles began to spread the message he left throughout Israel and shortly thereafter, through the Roman empire.
39 AD
 St. James the Greater travels as far west as Spain to the village of Zaragoza (Saragossa) in north east Spain to preach the Gospel but has little success. The place was originally the ancient sacred site of Salduba. Conquered by the Romans, it was renamed Caesaraugusta after the Roman Emperor. The name became corrupted by the Arabs to Saraqustah, and eventually evolved into Zaragoza.
Jan 2, 40 AD
 St. James the Greater was preaching on the banks of the Ebro River in Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza, Spain). When it looked as if James' mission was destined to be a failure, and he was subsequently depressed, he was deep in prayer when he witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a pagan standing stone. He was visited by the Virgin Mary in the flesh (she is still alive at this point in history) who appeared standing on a six-foot tall pillar of jasper carried by angels. She gave him the pillar and a statue of her with the infant Jesus saying: "This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build... and the people of this land will honor greatly my Son Jesus"

40 AD
 James then builds a chapel, the first built in honor of Mary. It was to become the first church in the world that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at the church. Before long, the chapel became a center for the conversion of pagans. Because of the apparition and the rapid rise of Christianity, Zaragoza quickly became a major political and commercial center. The simple chapel was often updated, growing in size into the existing Cathedral that was completed about the 17th century.

 James returns to Jerusalem.
44 AD
 St James suffered martyrdom (Acts 12:1-2) being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I (becoming the first apostle to be martyred for his faith) and, according to the tradition of the early Church, he had not yet left Jerusalem at this time (see Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, VI; Apollonius, quoted by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. VI.xviii).
44 AD
 Several of his disciples took his body and returned it for final burial in Spain. The local queen, observing several of the miracles performed by James' disciples, converted to Christianity and permitted James' body to be buried in a local field.
800 AD
 Eight centuries later, a cathedral in honor of St. James was erected after his gravesite was rediscovered by a local hermit. The hermit found the burial site after noticing an unusual star formation. The site for the cathedral was called Compostella (starry field), in Galicia, Spain, and it is a major pilgrimage site to this day.
 After the Reconquest of Zaragoza, a Romanesque style church was ordered to be built.
 This church was damaged by fire, and reconstruction began in the Mudejar-Gothic style.
June 23,1635
 In the Philippines, in the south, is the city of Zamboanga, Fort Pilar was founded by the Spanish Jesuit priest, Friar Melchor de Vera, as a defense against pirates and slave traders. One of the oldest and most Hispanic cities, it came to be known as the City of the Flowers. Its patron saint was Our Lady of the Pillar or Nuestra Senora del Pilar. As a result, you will often encounter the female given name, Pilar.
 The baroque-styled Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar was built starting in 1681 and officially finished in 1872. The Pilar Basilica is one of two minor basilicas in the city of Zaragoza, and is co-cathedral of the city alongside the nearby La Seo Cathedral.
 The Cabildo of Zaragoza decided to change the layout of the Chapel and commissioned architect Ventura Rodriguez, who transformed the building into its present dimensions of 130 meters long by 67 wide, with its eleven cupolas and four towers.

Description of the Virgin

The Virgin Mary appears a beautiful lady with a divine Child in her arms. She asked for milk in both of her apparitions at Vailankanni.


The Virgin Mary tells St. James the Greater: "This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build... and the people of this land will honor greatly my Son Jesus"

Miracles, Cures, and Signs

The chapel originally built by Saint James was later destroyed as were several subsequent chapels on the same site. The statue and pillar have been preserved however for almost 2000 years. Numerous healings throughout the ages have been attributed to the Virgin by those visiting the site seeking her help.

One day a young man named Miguel Juan Pellicer di Calandra had a fairly serious accident. His knee needed to be amputated. He prayed before surgery, and again afterwards, thanking God for still being alive. But he could no longer work and he became a beggar ... Each day when he returned to his home, he would put oil from the lamps in the sanctuary on his scar. Two years and five months after the amputation, after praying to Our Lady of the Pillar as usual, he fell asleep and the next morning he awoke with two legs!

An investigation was conducted and the news of the miracle spread.


Our Lady of the Pillar is the patron virgin of Spain and its Civil Guard. In Zamboanga City, Philippines, the Virgin of the Pillar has been venerated for almost five centuries. Her statue is embossed at the top of the facade of the 16th century Spanish military fort called El Fuerza Real de Nuestra Senora Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza. The military fort is now a Catholic Marian Shrine.

The feast of Our Lady of the Pillar is on October 12. Every Latin-American nation has donated national vestments for the fifteenth century wooden statue of the Virgin, which is housed in the chapel on the pillar of jasper and is carried at the head of a procession around the city on the feast day. The shrine has become a place of pilgrimage for both Christian and non-Christian.


The apparitions of Our Lady of the Pillar have not been formally approved but are accepted by tradition and are implicitly approved by the elevation of the church to basilica status.

Nuestra Senora Del Pilar

"Our Lady of the Pillar", a celebrated church and shrine, at Saragossa, Spain, containing a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin, which is the object of very special devotion throughout the kingdom. The image, which is placed on a marble pillar, whence the name of the church, was crowned in 1905 with a crown designed by the Marquis of Griie, and valued at 450,000 pesetas (18,750, 1910).

The present spacious church in Baroque style was begun in 1681. According to an ancient Spanish tradition, given in the Roman Breviary (for 12 October, Ad. mat., lect. vi), the original shrine was built by St. James the Apostle at the wish of the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to him as he was praying by the banks of the Ebro at Saragossa. There has been much discussion as the truth of the tradition. Mgr L. Duchesne denies, as did Baronius, the coming of St. James to Spain, and reproduces arguments founded on the writings of the Twelfth Ecumenical Council, discovered by Loaisa, but rejected as spurious by the Jesuit academician Fita and many others.

Those who defend the tradition adduce the testimony of St. Jerome (PL XXIV, 373) and that of the Mozarabic Office. The oldest written testimony of devotion to the Blessed Virgin in Saragossa usually quoted is that of Pedro Librana (1155). Fita has published data of two Christian tombs at Saragossa, dating from Roman days, on which the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is represented.


Bascillica of Our Lady of The Pilar, Zaragoza Spain.
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