Zaragoza was such a brief blip on our trip towards Barcelona that I did not have adequate time to see much of what makes this city Zaragoza. We had about two and half hours. First stop, por supuesto, was the Basilica. The outside was so interesting that I was quite excited to go in. The roof is a mosaic of brightly colored tiles and it is surrounded by a grand plaza complete with a waterfall and adorable outdoor cafes. The inside is a baroque heaven of architecture. The plaster detail was divine and the ceilings were covered in meticulously painted biblical scenes.
I learned two fun stories about this place. When Saint James was on his mission way back in 40 AD, he was in Spain and was feeling quite discouraged. His mission was not going well and he wanted to go home. I’m sure every missionary has felt a similar down-trodden spirit. However, in the midst of his trials, the Virgin Mary appeared to him on top of a pillar. This inspired him and the Basilica was built on that very spot. The pillar is still in the Basilica and it is marked with a sign that promises good luck if you kiss it. I went ahead and passed on that experience, though I did watch several others participate. What is especially strange about this vision is that it came to him while Mary was still alive. Supposedly the church in Zaragoza is the first dedicated to the virgin.
The second story is that during the civil war, Zaragoza and the Basilica was bombed heavily. Three different bombs fell onto the building. Miraculously, it was protect though and none of them exploded. The Basilica de Nuestra Señor del Pilar survived. Funnily enough, two of the unexploded bombs are still in the church on display. Honestly I question the wisdom of this decision, but what do I know of miracles and signs of God?
After the Basilica we visited the Cathedral that had some pretty interesting tapestries. One was of the crucifixion, but there were several dragons involved. I must be reading an abridged version of the bible because I don’t remember there being very many dragons… Finally, I took an elevator up to the top of one of the Basilica towers. There you could get a panoramic view of the entire city. It made me very disappointed that there was so little time designated to this city. Apparently it is the biggest in the province of Aragon, so naturally my thoughts turned to King Ferdinand and wondering what it was like when he lived there. I also appreciated how the city was set up with the old quarter at its heart and the newer suburbs spread out like rays from a sun. It reminded me that we always build upon our past and our ancestors to stretch into new horizons and a bigger, brighter future because of that firm foundation we build upon. Who knew I could learn so much with two and half hours and an elevator ride to see such a beautiful historic city?