This grandiose 16th- and 17th-century basilica on the bank of the Río Ebro has an almost Byzantine aspect with its domes and towers. Thousands of the faithful travel here annually to pay homage to the tiny statue of the Virgen del Pilar in the Holy Chapel. The basilica is consider a co-cathedral with La Seo del Salvador, and its name, El Pilar, comes from the pillar upon which the Virgin is supposed to have stood when she asked Santiago (St. James) to build the church. (Like “Montserrat,” “Pilar” is a common Spanish woman’s name, often conferred by devout parents.) During the second week of October, the church is a backdrop for an important festival devoted to Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar), with parades, bullfights, fireworks, flower offerings, and street dancing. The actual feast day is October 12, and sometimes attracts political terrorists trying to get attention. In the most recent event, in 2013, a homemade bomb went off in the middle of the main chapel, but no one was harmed. The church also contains frescoes painted by Goya, who was born nearby. The baroque cupolas in the Temple of Pilar were decorated by Goya and Francisco Bayeu, another Zaragoza artist and Goya’s brother-in-law. You can also visit the Museo del Pilar, which houses the jewelry collection used to adorn the Pilar statue as well as sketches by Goya and other local artists.
- Frommer's Staff