Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Church in Zaragoza, Spain

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Church in Zaragoza, Spain

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar Photo © Pablo Fernández

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Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

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Basilica del Pilar -
	Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Basilica del Pilar - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Photo by Juanedc
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, known as Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Spanish, is the most famous landmark in the city of Zaragoza, Spain. This Baroque masterpiece is one of the city’s two adjacent Catholic cathedrals, and is thought to be the first church in history to have been dedicated to Mary. It is named after Our Lady of the Pillar (Wikipedia Article), a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary that is said to have taken place in Zaragoza in the year 40 AD.

History

According to local tradition, the origins of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, popularly known as El Pilar, date back to the year 40 AD. While preaching the Gospel in Spain, St. James saw a vision of Mary, who told him to build a church in her honor on that exact spot on the banks of the Ebro (Wikipedia Article) River. She also gave him a small, wooden statue of herself on a column of jasper which is said to still reside within the basilica. Soon after, he built the church, which was the first in history to be dedicated to her.

Throughout the site’s history, numerous churches have been built, including a Romanesque church which was damaged due to a fire in the 15th century, and later reconstructed in the Mudéjar Gothic architectural style. The current Baroque church was constructed in the late 17th century, with striking cupolas and towers, as well as beautiful frescoes on its ceilings.

Basílica del Pilar - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Basílica del Pilar - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Photo by Juanedc

Things to See

Whether you’re interested in history, religion, or art, you’re sure to be amazed by the beauty of El Pilar and the many wonders its contains.

Our Lady of the Pillar

The most famous artifact held within the basilica is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary known as Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Spanish. The 38 cm tall wooden sculpture sits atop a column made of jasper, which according to legend is the same statue that Saint James was given by the Virgin Mary in 40 AD, though it was most likely carved more recently.

The Ceilings

Some of the most beautiful aspects of the basilica are its ceiling frescoes. They depict various religious scenes and were painted by artists such as Antonio González Velázquez and renowned Spanish painter, Francisco Goya (Wikipedia Article).

The Altarpiece

The main altarpiece, or retablo, of the basilica, is a beautiful Gothic work. It was made from alabaster by Spanish sculptor, Damián Forment, in the early 1500s.

The Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua

This beautiful chapel has been dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese saint, since the early 18th century. It is known for its black marble and jasper altarpiece, as well as the gorgeous fresco on its cupula, one of the finest in the basilica, which is called Glorificación de San Antonio de Padua.

The Sacristy

The main sacristy features sculptures of various saints, gold artifacts, 16th-century furniture, intricate tapestries, Baroque paintings, and holy relics.

The Tower

For a few euros, visitors can reach the top of one of the basilica’s towers, which provides spectacular views of the city of Zaragoza, the beautiful Ebro River, and the surrounding areas.

Museo Pilarista

In recent decades, the basilica’s prayer hall has been converted into the Museo Pilarista, which contains various artwork and religious artifacts related to Our Lady of the Pillar. Some of its most fascinating items include numerous cloaks that have been used to cover the image of the Virgin throughout the centuries. Other items include gold crowns that have adorned the statue, as well as jewelry and impressive gold items that date back to the 17th century.

Zaragoza - Basilica of
	Our Lady of the Pillar
Zaragoza - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Photo by Sam Kelly

Practical Information

Zaragoza is a very pedestrian-friendly city, so the easiest way to reach El Pilar is on foot. However, the city also provides an urban bus system that is relatively cheap, as well as numerous taxi services that can be used to reach the basilica.

Address: Plaza del Pilar, s/n, 50003 Zaragoza, Spain

Hours: The basilica is generally open daily from 6:45 until 21:30, while its museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 13:30 and 16:00 to 17:30, as well as 9:00 to 13:30 on Saturdays. In the winter, tower visits are permitted from 10:00 to 13:30 and 16:00 to 17:30, with extended summer hours of 9:30 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 19:00.

Prices: Admission to the basilica is free. Visiting its museum costs €2 ($2.30), while tower visits cost €3 ($3.45) for everyone except children under the age of 9.

Similar Attractions

After visiting El Pilar, consider making the short walk to the adjacent La Seo Cathedral, which is the other cathedral in Zaragoza. There are also dozens of other historic cathedrals throughout Spain, most notably Seville Cathedral, Toledo Cathedral, León Cathedral, Segovia Cathedral, Granada Cathedral, and Burgos Cathedral.

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Author: ehuttner. Last updated: Apr 06, 2015

Pictures of Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Basílica del Pilar - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Basílica del Pilar - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Photo by Juanedc

Anochecer en el Ebro - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Anochecer en el Ebro - Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Photo by Juanedc

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