Christian tombs at Zaragoza, dating from Roman days, appear to bear images representing the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The oldest written testimony of devotion to the Blessed Virgin in Zaragoza is usually identified as that of Pedro Librana in 1155.
This is the first reported apparition of the Mary in history. Unlike other recorded apparitions, this apparently took place during the earthly life of the Blessed Mother.
 According to ancient Spanish tradition, on 12 October 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
Zaragoza, in the Roman province of
Hispania. He 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.
After establishing the church, the first dedicated to Mary, James returned to Jerusalem with some of his disciples where he became a
martyr, beheaded in 44 AD during the reign of
 His disciples allegedly returned his body to Spain.
The apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar is a widely accepted tradition.
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 7 August 1723, and later inserted in the lessons of the office of the feast of our Lady of the Pillar, celebrated on 12 October:
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.
Our Lady of the Pillar with the pillar draped with a special manto
(mantle) made with paper
A closer look at the manto made of 1,536 paper
pieces by a group of origami enthusiasts from Zaragoza
Description of the image and pillar
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,
 contradicting other reports that it is still the original statue.
 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 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).
 As a whole, it is protected by a bronze case and then another case of silver.
 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).
The Shrine to Our Lady of the Pillar
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar built along the Ebro River.
The construction of the present
Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar,
Zaragosa was started in 1681 and ended in 1711. Later additions in the 18th century expanded its dimensions to the present 130 metres (430 ft) in length, by 67 metres (220 ft) in width, crowned by eleven
cupolas, four towers, and ten lantern towers.
 The cathedral was elevated to
Minor Basilica status during the reign of
Pope Pius XII in the 1950s.
Spanish Civil War, two bombs hit and damaged the basilica but neither exploded. The event was reckoned a miracle, and the defused bombs have been on display at the basilica premises ever since.