Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar (Zaragoza, Spain)
This basilica contains two precious gifts that the Virgin Mary is believed to have given the Apostle James the Greater in the first century.
The gifts were a statue of the Virgin Mary and a six-foot-tall pillar of jasper that the Apostle was said to have received from the Virgin Mary on January 2, 40 A.D. In fact, the Virgin Mary appeared to James while standing on the very pillar that we still have today.
The Virgin Mary is believed to have bi-located to Spain from Jerusalem while she was still alive. Many saints, including St. Padre Pio and St. Martin de Porres, have been known to bi-locate, or be physically present in two locations at once.
According to legend, Saint James was preaching along the Ebro River in present-day Zaragoza when the apparition occurred – the first apparition in history of the Virgin Mary. James had been discouraged because his work did not seem to be converting people to Christ, but Mary assured him that eventually the people's faith would be as strong as the pillar on which she stood.
According to a tradition handed down, the Virgin Mary said to James, “This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.”
James built a chapel (which was later destroyed and rebuilt). The gifts from Mary (the statue and pillar) have been preserved intact for almost 2,000 years! The Feast of the Pillar is an important day in Spain and even today, many Spanish girls are named “Pilar.”
Many cures have been reported at the site. In fact, the Miracle of Calanda – in which a young man’s leg grew back – occurred after prayers were said to Our Lady of Pilar. Also, two bombs dropped on the church failed to explode, and now hang on the church walls.
In 1456, Pope Calixtus III issued a bull endorsing visits to this basilica. More recently, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar was visited by Pope John Paul II, who referred to Our Lady of the Pillar as “Mother of the Hispanic Peoples.”
Links: Our Lady of the Pillar (wiki) Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar (wiki) Book: “God-sent: A History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary” Miracle Hunter Nuestra Señora del Pilar The Virgin del Pilar Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Catholic Encyclopedia) Our Lady of the Pillar (Dayton) The First Marian Shrine: Our Lady of the Pillar
The Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago in Spain)
For more than a thousand years, religious pilgrims have traveled on foot to visit the shrine dedicated to the Apostle known as Saint James the Greater. According to a historic legend, the Apostle James brought Christianity to Spain.
His shrine is located in a cathedral in northwestern Spain called the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Santiago means “Saint James.” During the Middle Ages, the popularity of Santiago as a Christian pilgrimage site rivaled that of Rome and Jerusalem.
There are many routes to Santiago (from all different destinations) and all of these routes may be considered “The Way of Saint James.” The most popular is a route starting in France called Le Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle. A movie called “The Way” (2010) – starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez – revolves around a pilgrimage to Santiago along one route.
The world’s first travel guide book, the twelfth-century Codex Calixtus assisted pilgrims planning to follow the Way of St. James to the shrine of St. James. The book describes sites to see enroute and lists miracles attributed to prayers to St. James. The book also contains sermons and writings associated with St. James. Although the guide was previously attributed to Pope Callixtus II, many now believe that the true authors borrowed the pope’s name to enhance the guide’s prominence.
Route of Santiago de Compostela (UNESCO) Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage routes The Way of St. James Movie starring Martin Sheen (“The Way”) The Way of St. James (routes from France, Portugal, England, etc.) Friends of St. James (click a person) The Camino in History Saint James the Greater
Abbey of Einsiedeln
(Benedictine monastery outside Zurich, Switzerland)
To the left is a wooden footbridge that religious pilgrims walk over on their way to a special abbey and church in Switzerland. One of the unique things about the founding of this abbey's church is that Jesus Himself came down and consecrated this church in 948 A.D.
“The chapel is said to have been consecrated by Christ himself on September 14, 948, when the bishop who was to consecrate the new site had a vision of Christ himself approaching the altar. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Leo VIII 16 years later in a papal bull” (Catholic Online: “The Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln holds miraculous statue”)
According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, “The church was miraculously consecrated, so the legend runs, in 948, by Christ Himself assisted by the Four Evangelists, St. Peter, and St. Gregory the Great. This event was investigated and confirmed by Pope Leo VIII and subsequently ratified by many of his successors, the last ratification being by Pius VI in 1793, who confirmed the acts of all his predecessors” (Alston, George Cyprian. "Abbey of Einsiedeln." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 29 May 2015).
The abbey is also famous for its miracle-working statue of the Blessed Mother. Such a statue was originally brought there by Saint Meinrad, a monk and priest who founded the abbey in the ninth century. St. Meinrad eventually became a hermit.
The statue was destroyed in 1466 but replaced by another miraculous statue called “Black Madonna of Einsiedeln.”
Holy House of Loreto
(House where Virgin Mary grew up)
A popular pilgrimage site in Italy, this famous house is believed to be the house in which the Virgin Mary was born and grew up.
It is also believed that in this house, Mary received the announcement (Annunciation) by the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive a baby and become the mother of Jesus.
Having originally stood in Nazareth, this house has been a tourist destination since it arrived in Italy in 1294. Its dimensions are 31 feet by 13 feet.
An ancient tradition holds that four angels flew the house from Nazareth to Italy to protect it from destruction near the end of the Crusades in the Holy Land. A more modern hypothesis is that a family whose last name was Angelo (angel) transferred the house over land and sea (also in the 13th century) with the help of angels. The house can be visited inside the Basilica della Casa Santa (Basilica of the Holy House) in Loreto.
“At the Vatican, Our Lady of Loreto is credited for restoring health to Popes Pius II, Paul II and Pius IX. More than fifty Popes have testified to the authenticity of the house at Loreto and in 1669 the Litany of Loreto was approved for use in the Mass, one of only five approved public litanies,” according to journalist Delia Gallagher of Zenit New Agency(Source.)
La Sagrada Familia
This famous basilica in Barcelona, Spain, has been under construction for more than a century. Explaining its incomplete status, architect Antoni Gaudí once remarked, “My client is not in a hurry.”
Known as “God’s Architect,” Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) began working on his masterpiece in the early 1880s. The Catalan was known for his devout and ascetic lifestyle. In fact, there is a movement to have him named a saint with the Church having opened his beatification case in 2003.
Although no miracles have been approved yet, several people claim that their prayers to Gaudí resulted in miraculous healings. Two healings being studied include: 1) a former lecturer named Montserrat Barenys who had a perforated retina but regained her sight in one eye after praying for Gaudi’s intercession 2) Ramon Amargant who says Gaudi’s intercession cured him of an ulcer on his hip.
Of course, the Church will not take into consideration all of the individuals who say they felt the presence of God upon visiting La Sagrada Familia or those who converted to the faith because the heavenly architecture of the church lifted them upwards.
This CNA article quotes José Manuel Almuzara saying that a Buddhist from South Korea visited the church and then wrote a letter to the Gaudi beatification association that he was becoming a Catholic after discovering the divine in Gaudi’s work and realizing that God existed.
Almuzara, the association’s director, also recounted an atheist who visited the church saying to him, “José Manuel, I’m an atheist. What is happening to me?”
La Sagrada Familia was consecrated as a minor basilica in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI despite the unfinished status of the church, which has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Links: Antoni Gaudi: God’s Architect Holy Architect La Sagrada Familia (official site) Beauty will save the world - Gaudi’s basilica inspires conversions God’s Architect (America magazine) Gaudi (Britannica) UNESCO New hope in campaign to make Antoni Gaudi a Saint The Church that fills me with hope for Europe The saintly architect who unsettles atheists Will Gaudi be made a saint? Can Architecture Perform Miracle? Amazing video of la Sagrada Familia (timelapse video set to music) Barcelona video travel guide