Route of the Virgin Mary
EL PILAR DE ZARAGOZA
On the banks of the river Ebro, in Zaragoza, rises the Basilica of Our Lady of el Pilar, the jewel of Baroque art in Aragón. The temple is visited daily by thousands of believers and pilgrims. It keeps the image of the Virgin of el Pilar, the centre of an ancient veneration that dates back to apostolic times. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary came to Zaragoza to comfort and encourage the apostle Saint James, who was in the city preaching the Gospel. The Virgin gave the apostle a column or pillar (el pilar), around which the first chapel was built. This would be the first church devoted to the Virgin Mary in the whole Christendom. That is why Zaragoza and Santiago de Compostela constitute the two main axes around which Spanish spiritual life rotates, attracting every year millions of visitors.
This sanctuary devoted to the Virgin is located in the province of Huesca. It was open to worship in 1975, next to the hermitage that kept, from the 11th century, a Romanesque sculpture of Our Lady of Torreciudad. The building of the sanctuary was possible thanks to the spiritual drive of the founder of the Opus Dei and to the generosity and help of thousands of people from all over the world. Torreciudad is an international pilgrimage centre. This prayer and penitence place is sited in a landscape of singular strength and beauty. The temple is a work by the architect Heliodoro Dols, who lives in Zaragoza, and the altarpiece was done by the artist Juan Mayne, who was inspired by the Aragonese monstrance-altarpieces.
This is one of the most famous sanctuaries in the world since the middle of the 19th century. Above the cave where the Virgin’s apparitions took place, three superimposed churches were built: the Crypt, the Basilica of the Rosary and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. To the west of the cave we find the swimming-pools for the sick; to the east the fountains where the miraculous water springs up. The subterranean Basilica of Saint Pious X can hold 30 000 people, and the Via Crucis is built on the mountain.