The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar (Zaragoza)
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza is considered both one of the top Cathedrals as well as one of the most famous religious buildings in Spain.
The Basilica worships the Virgin Mary, under her title Our Lady of the Pillar, as the Mother of the Hispanic People. This explains the flags of the Latin American countries (as well as artifacts from around Latin America) you’ll see around the church. The feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, celebrating the first apparition of Mary to Hispanic people, is on October 12. This coincides with the date of Columbus’s discovery of the New World.
Built between 1681 and 1872, the building is a mix of architectural styles: baroque, neoclassical and rococo. What really stands out, in contrast to most Cathedrals in Spain, are the multitude of towers and domes – 4 high towers on the corners of the building as well as 11 domes decorated with green, yellow, blue and white glass tiles. Inside, the standout feature is Santa Capilla (the Holy Chapel) which holds the image of the Lady of the Pillar. The church is also famous for containing frescoes painted by Francisco Goya – one of the most influential Spanish artists of all time.
Visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
We had a hard time understanding the organization of this church when we arrived. There are 2 entrances that we could see: one to the Main Altar where mass would often be held (I read that there is a mass every hour), another to the Santa Capilla. Entry to both was free and there were a lot of visitors (most local), but the two parts of the church were separated by barriers. Photos are not allowed and there was no ticket office for visits (unlike most of the more visited churches around Spain). So how to visit?
We came to the church 3 times during our two days in Zaragoza and finally got lucky on our 3rd visit: the barrier that had been set up between the two sections of the church was down, there was no mass, and we could walk freely and take some photos (technically they are not allowed but everyone was taking them while no mass was being held). 15 minutes later the barriers were put up again for another mass.
As we found out, the Basilica is actually co-Cathedral along with Catedral del Salvador, known as La Seo (located at the end of the square). There you will find the information/ticket office and can buy a ticket that includes La Seo, the Torre de Pilar (one of the towers of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar which you can access by elevator), and a few museums (a ticket including all these options costs 9 Euros). Again, the actual Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar isn’t included so you’ll have to visit as we did and hope there is no mass in progress.
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