Zaragoza: Fiestas del Pilar

In the middle of Zaragoza, there stands a pillar of stone, said to be put there by the Virgin Mary herself after she consoled a distressed Apostle James in 40 A.D. She placed this pillar on the exact site where the first Iglesia Mariana (Marian Church) should be built, and today that pillar still stands.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Catholic and non-Catholic alike visit the Basílica to kiss the column, seeking protection and showing their faith and love for Virgen del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar).

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Zaragoza, an ancient Iberian, Roman and Moorish settlement and the fifth largest city in Spain.

In October, the entire city honors her with a week-long celebration called the Fiestas del Pilar. Every day, there are parties, exhibitions, and bullfighting; at night, the air is filled with music from concerts. The festival begins the first week of October and continues for a week; it’s an easy high-speed train ride from Madrid or Barcelona. Come for las vaquillas (amateurs face young cows in the bullring) and the Fiesta de la Cerveza Oktoberfest (the traditional German beer party). And don’t miss around October 12th, when groups in traditional costumes make a pilgrimage through the city streets to the Basílica del Pilar for “The Offering of Flowers” to the Blessed Virgin Mary, showing their devotion. Once inside the Basílica del Pilar, you’ll see Los Frescos de Goya (frescoes by Goya) and have your own opportunity to kiss the pillar.

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