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Our Lady of the Pillar

In the year 40, the first Marian apparition occurred when the Blessed Virgin appeared to the apostle, St. James the Great. Rising along the banks of Spain’s Ebro River sits one of Christianity’s most storied pilgrimage sites – the pillar-ensconced Virgin of Zaragoza known as Our Lady of the Pillar.


Legend tells of the Virgin appearing in Spain to the dejected Apostle James as he languished disheartened from fruitless evangelizing. As James prayed along the Ebro, Mary arrived atop a marble pillar carried by angels, urging him and his eight disciples to build a chapel there promising that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.”


In later iterations James himself returned from the Holy Land with carved images of Mary and Jesus reportedly carved by Luke, founding the first Western Marian church around Mary’s miraculously placed pillar.  

The legend reveals Marian devotion present by the fourth century with Zaragoza’s iconic shrine. The tiny Mudejar-style chapel Santa Capilla still shelters the site’s centerpiece – a hexagonal pillar where the Virgin purportedly tread. By the 12th century, kings like Alfonso I made pilgrimage seeking military aid through Our Lady of the Pillar, whose banner rode into battle with Spanish forces against the Moors.


Growing fame saw the pillar shrine rehoused in ever grander architecture over centuries. Today the monumental Pilar basilica complex remains one of Spain’s foremost sanctuaries, its intricate towers soaring beside the precious pillar marking Mary’s enduring sacred presence.  

Through plague, famine, war and strife the Virgin of the Pillar maintained her protective reputation in Spanish tradition. Early modern era transatlantic trade saw replicas like Quito’s venerated painting spreading devotion abroad.


Today her October feast still draws massive celebration nationwide with flowers garlanding her column amid joyful song and dance. Behind the embellished tales, the mystery endures of how so small a site sparked so vast a fame – one echoing across oceans over nearly two millennia.

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