Zaragoza, Spain

ZWhen 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.


–Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Spain on the Ebro River


–EMH in the late 1950s at the corrida in Zaragoza with Mary, wife number 4


–statue of Our Lady of the Pillar

From 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.

  8 comments for “Zaragoza, Spain

  1. hilarymb
    April 30, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Hi Denise – the name Zaragoza calls to me … I’d love to visit one day – interesting history though about the Pilar – thanks for telling us about the basilica and shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary – called our Lady of the Pilar … love the photo of EMH …

    Cheers and congratulations on finishing on such an educative note … Hilary

    • April 30, 2016 at 9:27 AM

      Hi Hilary! Yes, I love the name Zaragoza, too! I was wondering why the basilica was Our Lady of the Pillar and found it quite interesting. Thanks for following and I am so glad it is Z day finally. I have enjoyed your posts (even if they were not in the A to Z). Cheers and thank you, Denise

  2. April 30, 2016 at 12:48 PM

    Perfect ending to a wonderful series, Denise! 👏👏👏👏👏

    • April 30, 2016 at 4:59 PM

      Thank you, Martha. I totally enjoyed your topic as well! Such a good idea and fun to follow for a “Lost Generation” person like me.

  3. April 30, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful place, and your presentation of it is very nice.
    Congratulations, Denise. We made it!! Now, a short, well-deserved break.

    • April 30, 2016 at 4:58 PM

      I would love to see Zaragoza, Silvia. Yes, we did make it thankfully! Such an enjoyable month. Thanks for all your good reflections.

  4. May 9, 2016 at 8:38 PM

    Denise………..Great Job! Congratulations on finishing the A-Z. I’m not sure why, but as I read your last two blogs, I was remnded of this song! I always get the impression from your blogs that Hemmingway may have been a writter, but boating was his true passion.

    • May 9, 2016 at 8:52 PM

      Thanks so much, Zulu Delta 45! I think EMH would agree with that statement. In Cuba, his boat is dry-docked at the Finca. It is still beautiful, though, and I am glad it was restored and is safe. It is really electrifying (get it) to be around the Pilar. Cheers a month o’ fun!

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