Tradition dates this shrine to the year 40 A.D., when the apostle St. James received a visitation from the Virgin Mary asking him to build a church in her honor on this site in northeastern Spain. The pillar of jasper on which Mary appeared to St. James continues to be the centerpiece of the shrine and accounts for the name by which she is known here, Our Lady of Pilar.
Multiple churches have occupied the site, and the current building (built in the seventeenth century) features eleven brightly colored tiled domes, a magnificent main altar of alabaster, and two frescos by Francisco Goya.The pillar, which is displayed inside a chapel, is typically covered with an elaborate vestment called a manta. Countries, states, cities, and individuals from around the world have donated these vestments. According to a time-honored custom, pilgrims kiss the pillar on their visit to the church.
Did You Know? The brightly colored ribbons that pilgrims receive at the shrine can be seen throughout Spain, adorning taxi cabs, bicycles, and other vehicles as a sign of protection and blessing.
Learn more at Zaragoza, Spain: Our Lady of Pilar
Next site: Lisieux, France
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.