Our Lady of the Pillar

January 2

In Zaragossa, Spain, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar is a day of special rejoicing. Our Lady of the Pillar is the patroness of policemen and postmen; and the day is commemorated with processions, conventions, and other festivities.

The image of Our Lady of the Pillar is a wooden statue decorated with gold; it is about fifteen inches high. The crown adorning the head of the statue is very intricate. It was made in forty-four days by thirty-three workmen; in it there are 2,836 diamonds cut triangularly, 2725 roses, 145 pearls, 74 emeralds, 62 rubies and 46 sapphires. The crown of the Infant is identical with that of the Virgin, except in size.

The history of this particular statue of Our Lady is unique and interesting. It is said that in the year 40 A.D. the Virgin visited the Apostle Saint James while he was at prayer one night on the shore of the Ebro River in Zaragossa. Mary was standing on a column of marble, and she gave St. James her effigy, requesting that he build a chapel in her honor. Saint James complied. To the small chapel has been added a large temple which has been called Our Lady of the Pillar. Throughout the years the kisses of the pilgrims have made a hole in the pedestal, so large that a man’s head can rest therein.

Many miracles have been performed at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar: one in 1640 when the limb of a man, Juan, native of Colanda, was cured. In remembrance of the apparition of Our Lady, the people of Zaragossa made a vow in 1642 to honor always Mary, as the patroness of Zaragossa.

More than a hundred years ago, Zaragossa was besieged by a large French army. A few men and women with sixteen cannon and some shotguns, defended the town for two months. The French sacked the famous town, and took everything; but they did not dare touch the treasures of Our Lady of the Pillar. One of the generals boldly took one of the jewels to carry home to his wife, offering the Virgin in exchange a valuable gift. In the first battle, a cannon ball took off his leg. It was during this terrible siege that the people began to recite the verse so well known to the Spanish, “The Virgin of the Pillar says she does not want to be French. She desires to be the leader of the Aragon troops.”

*from the book "The Woman in Orbit"

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