It seems like every city in Spain boasts a magnificent cathedral that some famous saint, explorer, or a member of royalty has religiously performed the sign of the cross. The city of Zaragoza in the region of Aragon is no exception. There’s an impressive Roman Catholic Church (minor Basilica) nestled near the banks of the Ebro river.
It is said that shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus the apostle James went to Spain to preach and he spent some time in Zaragoza. James was praying on the banks of the Ebro then the spirit of the Virgin Mary appeared to him, gave him a statue of herself, and told him to build a church in her honor.
It was about 40 AD when the first chapel was built but it’s gone through some pretty extensive developments and restorations. Currently it’s in the Baroque style and it was completely remodeled in the beginning of the 18th century and continued getting fixed up until the 20th century. This Basilica is also the first church dedicated to Mary in history!
Inside you’ll find the statue that the Virgin Mary gave to Saint James back in 40 AD. <<Now, the Spanish are veeeeery proud of anything that has to do with Catholicism and gifts from religious figures. Apparently the holy grail is also in Spain…but I wasn’t hanging out with Saint James way back when so how the heck am I supposed to know if it’s true so we’ll give it to them.>> People come to this statue and kiss it which sounds voodoo to me but it’s been done for hundreds of years.
Most people know that there is a big pilgrimage route in Spain called the Camino de Santiago which has to do with Saint James as well but people also flock to Zaragoza’s famous basilica for another sort of pilgrimage. I certainly did in October for the La festival del Pilar. I wrote about it here but it starts the Sunday before October 12th and lasts a week. It’s basically just a huge parade with plenty of dancing in the streets, bullfighting, and copious amounts of red wine.
Of course people FILL the basilica up every day during the festival and they hold different masses inside.
Also inside you can see frescos painted by Goya, nine different chapels, and an altar delicately decorated with gold (because we’re in Spain). There are impressive columns and marble displays of angels and scenes from the bible. During the time I was there which was during the festival; the statue of Mary was decorated and put atop a huge base with a gold crown like piece and it was carried around the streets. A norm for all Spanish processions I guess. I’ll report my conclusion after Semana Santa in Andalucia.
It’s definitely worth a day trip to check out Zaragoza and it’s incredible Basilica. This city has so much history. You can see buildings from thousands of years past, Roman ruins, and an unbelievable Moorish palace. Zaragoza was a candidate for the European capital of 2008 and it’s a very youthful city!
Have you been to Zaragoza yet? Comment below.