Nuestra Señora del Pilar / Our Lady of the Pillar
Zaragoza, Spain (40)

Commemorated on January 2, October 11, August 15
Nuestra Señora del Pilar / Our Lady of the Pillar According to legend, in the early days of the Church on January 2, 40 AD, the Apostle James the Greater was proclaiming the Gospel in Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza) by the river Ebro, when he saw Mary miraculously appearing in the flesh on a pillar calling him to return to Jerusalem. James was also instructed to build a chapel on the spot. The pillar left by the Virgin Mary is presently enshrined in the same but larger Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is believed to be the same pillar given and promised by Mary, in spite of numerous disasters that beset the church.

History

According to ancient Spanish tradition, on January 2, 40 AD, in the early days of Christianity, James the Greater, one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, was preaching the Gospel in what was then the pagan land of Caesaraugusta (now Zaragoza), in the Roman province of Hispania. 

St. James was disheartened with his mission, having made only a few converts. While he was praying by the banks of the Ebro River with some of his disciples, Mary miraculously appeared before him atop a pillar accompanied by angels. Mary assured James that the people would eventually be converted and their faith would be as strong as the pillar she was standing on. She gave him the pillar as a symbol and a wooden image of herself. James was also instructed to build a chapel on the spot where she left the pillar.
 
It is generally believed that Mary appeared to James through bilocation, as she was still living either in Ephesus or Jerusalem at the time of this event, as she is believed to have died three to fifteen years after Jesus ascended in Heaven. After establishing the church, James returned to Jerusalem with some of his disciples where he became a martyr, beheaded in 44 AD under Herod Agrippa.[8] His disciples allegedly returned his body to Spain.

Description

The pillar left by the Virgin Mary is presently enshrined in the same but larger Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is believed to be the same pillar given and promised by Mary, in spite of numerous disasters that beset the church. A fire in 1434 burned down the church that preceded the present basilica.
 
The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary may or may not be the original. Some reports state that the original wooden image was destroyed when the church burned down in 1434,[2] contradicting other reports that it is still the original statue.[4] The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is made of wood and stands 39 centimetres (15 in) tall while the 6 feet (1.8 m) pillar is made of jasper. The statue depicts Mother Mary with the Child Jesus on her left arm, who has a dove sitting on his left palm. Since the 16th century, the pillar is usually draped in a skirt-like cover called manto (in English: mantle).[2] As a whole, it is protected by a bronze case and then another case of silver.[12] The image was canonically crowned in 1905 during the reign of Pope Pius X. The crown was designed by the Marquis of Griñi, valued at 450,000 pesetas (£18,750, 1910).
 

Approval

The apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar is a widely accepted sacred tradition.[4] Popes from earliest times issued Papal Bulls attesting to the authenticity of the shrine and the appearance of the Virgin Mary.[5] Pope Calixtus III issued a bull in 1456 encouraging pilgrimage to the Lady of the Pillar. It acknowledged the miracle of its foundation and the miracles that had taken place in the Spanish shrine. It was also through this bull that the name Lady of the Pillar was confirmed.
 
So many contradictions had arisen concerning the miraculous origin of the church that during the reign of Pope Innocent XIII Spain appealed to the Holy See to settle the controversy. After careful investigation, the twelve cardinals, in whose hands the affair rested, adopted the following account, which was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on August 7, 1723, and has since been inserted in the lessons of the office of the feast of our Lady of the Pillar, celebrated on October 12.
 
"Of all the places that Spain offers for the veneration of the devout, the most illustrious is doubtless the sanctuary consecrated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, under the title of our Lady of the Pillar, at Saragossa."
 
"According to ancient and pious tradition, St. James the Greater, led by Providence into Spain, spent some time at Saragossa. He there received a signal favor from the Blessed Virgin. As he was praying with his disciples one night, upon the banks of the Ebro, as the same tradition informs us, the Mother of God, who still lived, appeared to him, and commanded him to erect an oratory in that place. The apostle delayed not to obey this injunction, and with the assistance of his disciples soon constructed a small chapel. In the course of time a larger church was built and dedicated, which, with the dedication of Saint Saviour's, is kept as a festival in the city and Diocese of Saragossa on the 4th of October."
 
Pope Clement XII allowed the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar all over the Spanish Empire in 1730. As the date coincides with the discovery of the Americas, the lady was later named as Patroness of the Hispanic World.

Prayers

Hail, Mary, Our Lady of the Pillar, conceived without sin, I come to venerate and worship you above all the angels and saints in heaven as my Queen, my Lady, and my dearest Mother. I firmly resolve to serve you always, and to do what I can that all may render faithful service to you. Most Holy Mary, through your kind intercession and by your own merits, obtain for me from your Divine Son Jesus, our Lord and Savior, all the graces I need for the eternal salvation of my soul. Therefore, most devoted Mother of mothers, through the Precious Blood which your Son shed for us, I humbly beseech thee to receive me among your devotees, and to accept me as your servant forever. Help me in my every thought, action word and deed, never to be displeasing in your sight and in the sight of your Son, our Lord and Redeemer. Think of me always, my dear Lady of the Pillar, and do not forsake me in the hour of my death. Amen.

Shrines

Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Zaragoza, Spain)

The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (better known simply as El Pilar) is one of two major cathedrals in the heart of Zaragoza, Spain. It is an important pilgrimage...

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