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Shrines of the two Marys

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Zaragoza, Spain.

Photo of Shrines of the two Marys
Photo by Martin Gray
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Towards the end of the 1st century BC, the ancient Celtiberian sacred site of Salduba was conquered by the Romans and renamed Caesaraugusta after the Roman Emperor. Called Saraqustah by the Arabs, the modern name of the city, Zaragoza, is a corruption of these earlier names. There are two primary sacred places within the city, the small shrine of Mary Magdalene shown in the foreground of the photograph, and the cathedral of Nuestra Senora del Pilar, in the background. This cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin of the Pillar, the patroness of Spain, is the site of the earliest known Marian apparition in Europe. The Christian telling of the foundation legend tells that St. John the Apostle, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, spent the years following the crucifixion preaching in Spain. St. John the Apostle arrived in Zaragoza in 40 AD and, upon a megalithic standing stone, saw an apparition of Mary which instructed him to build a church. Because of its megalithic-era sanctity, its Marian apparition and the presence of a Black Madonna statue, Zaragoza soon grew in size and religious importance. The early chapel was frequently enlarged following wars and fires, and the existing cathedral was erected, upon the site of the original megalithic standing stone, between the 17th and 18th centuries.

Throughout the centuries mysterious apparitions have frequently been observed around the pillar and large numbers of pilgrims, both Christian and neo-pagan, continue to visit the shrine. Each year on October 12, a small, 15th century statue of the Virgin is taken on a procession around the city. Few visitors to Zaragoza take the time to meditate in the nearby, and quieter, shrine of Mary Magdalene. The Magdalene, whose relics were originally stored at the French shrine of St. Maximin and later transferred to Vezelay, was highly venerated in the medieval ages as the wife of Jesus and the mother of his children.

Shrines of the Two Marys on the Sacred Sites Website.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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