When EMH was younger and going to see the corrida de toros (bullfights) in various cities in Spain, one of these cities was Zaragoza, the capital city of Aragon. This city has a basilica and shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary called Our Lady of the Pillar (Pilar in Spanish). Mary was said to have appeared in Spain here and so this shrine to her was made between 1681 and 1872. EMH visited this basilica and shrine when he was in Zaragoza. The pillar the statue of Mary is on is reportedly the same pillar that the apostle James saw Mary on being carried by angels when he was in Spain to bring Christianity to the Iberian peninsula. This was before her assumption into heaven. As with many of the shrines to Mary, healing and miracles are purported to happen at the shrine. When EMH bought his boat from Wheeler Shipbuilding, he named the boat Pilar in reference to the shrine. Also, EMH used Pilar as a nickname for Pauline (wife number 2) and used Pilar as the name of a the female leader in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
From InterfaithMary.net about the pillar:
One may wonder why Mary gave James such a big pillar on which to place a small statue. What is the significance of the pillar? The Hebrew word for pillar also means memorial stone. Since the time of the Jewish patriarchs, pillars mark places of special importance that are to be commemorated by future generations. But pillars or ‘sacred poles’ were also an ancient Jewish symbol for the feminine face of God. They represented the Tree of Life, which in turn was the image and title of the Canaanite Goddess Asherah. Lady Wisdom, the feminine aspect or companion of God described in the Old Testament, is also called Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18). The Bible acknowledges that a sacred pillar was placed in Salomon’s temple in Jerusalem and poles in other holy places to embody the feminine face of God. The pillar was near the Ark of the Covenant, so that the God (who speaks of itself in the plural and created humans in its image as male and female (Genesis 1:27)) would not miss its female side. But around 622 B.C. King Josiah reigned and since he didn’t distinguish between good and bad pagan influences he destroyed everything he considered pagan. (2 Kings 23:6 + 14) It seems that centuries after he pulverized all the goddess poles of the Jews, Heaven itself brought the sacred pillar of the Heavenly Mother and the Tree of Life (also one of Mary’s titles) back into Christian temples. God seems to prophesy to this in Revelation 3:12 when he says: “The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God and he (or she) will never leave it again.”
After this first apparition of Mary, the Apostle James built the first chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. She answered many prayers with miracles and so the conversion of Spain succeeded. Although the chapel was later destroyed, as were several other churches on the spot, the statue and its pillar have endured over the millennia and stand to this day in a magnificent basilica.