Our Lady of the Pillar

October 12

Today is the feast day of  Our Lady of the Pillar.  Ora pro nobis.

Perhaps the oldest devotion to Our Lady in Europe is the devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar. In Spain, Pilar is a popular girl’s name, as is Mercedes for Our Lady of Mercy. (In fact, General Franco named one of his daughters Pilar, just as one of the Carmelite Martyrs written of in this issue was named Sister Maria del Pilar.) (1)

Venerable Maria of Agreda who was shown the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary in detail, writes in her Mystical City of God that St. James, brother of St. John, whom Our Lord called “Sons of Thunder”, had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother. (2)

Becoming the apostle of what today is Spain, Saint James was having a hard time evangelizing the northern region of Zaragoza. One night, as he prayed asking help for his plight, he suddenly beheld a great light in the midst of which he saw Our Lady surrounded by a multitude of angels. (2)

The interesting thing is that Mary was still living in Jerusalem at the time. But as queen of the Church, she was given to see all that concerned her Son’s work, and being shown the prayer of her devotee, had obtained from Jesus to help him in a special way. (2)

On learning of their lady’s wishes, the angels in her retinue promptly built a throne of luminous clouds on which they sat their queen, and swiftly carried her across the Mediterranean, serenading her all the way. (2)

Our Lady commanded that a chapel be built on the spot in Her honor and She promised Her assistance to those who invoke Her. The Apostle was quick to carry out the wishes of the Queen of Apostles. (1)

The present church, built by Charles II the late 1600s, is the last of several replacements and enlargements of the original edifice. King Ferdinand VI, in 1753, commissioned an architect to build the special side chapel which houses Our Lady’s pillar. On the pillar, whose jasper cannot be matched anywhere in the world, is erected a fifteen-inch statue of Our Lady with the child Jesus, Who holds a dove (cf. Canticle of Canticles 2:14 & 6:8). One tradition says that Our Lady Herself gave the statue to Saint James, while another states that Saint James commissioned it. Regardless of its origin, many miracles attest to Heaven’s predilection for the relic. Among its many prodigies is the fact that, in almost 2,000 years, the statue has never needed dusting. (1)

While many chapels were built on the site of the apparition over the years, the statue of Our Lady has always remained in the same place. The column can be seen today on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. The construction of the Basilica began on the feast of St. James (July 25) in 1686. (3)

The statue, affectionately known by the Spanish people as La Pilarica (the little pillar), has survived wars with the Romans, Goths, and Moors. Miraculously, although it is over 1,900 years old, it shows no sign of decay. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) three bombs were dropped on the Basilica, but none of them exploded. These bombs are on display in the Basilica, and they are a vivid testament to the power of Our Lady’s promise. (3)

The feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar is celebrated in Spain on October 12 each year, and it is one of the biggest religious celebrations in the country. Over 400,000 pilgrims, many wearing traditional suits and dresses, come to Zaragoza from all over Spain to bring flowers to Our Lady. Pilgrims fill the city and stand in line all day to place flowers before a larger statue of La Pilarica in front of the Basilica. (3)

The devotion Spaniards, and Zaragozans in particular, have to Our Lady of the Pillar is truly inspiring, and the love and honor they show to her is beautiful to behold. She is the patroness of Spain, the Hispanic people, and the Spanish Civil Guard. Let us remember to place ourselves under her special protection this October 12, and believe in her promise that God will grant all the favors asked of Him through her intercession. (3)

No one is allowed to touch the statue, except for the four priests assigned to its care and clothing, and newly baptized infants who are lifted up so that the new children of God might touch the image of their heavenly Mother. The pillar itself has been covered with silver and bronze, except for an opening where pilgrims may venerate it, and the spot is quite worn away from the millions of kisses it has received. The choirboys and acolytes who serve the chapel form a special group of boys, known as Infantes. It is considered a great privilege for a family to have a son in the special uniform of the Infantes.(3)


  1. http://catholicism.org/our-lady-of-the-pillar.html
  2. https://americaneedsfatima.org/Our-Blessed-Mother/the-marvelous-story-of-our-lady-of-the-pillar.html
  3. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cw/post.php?id=673

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