Our Lady of the Pillar

Saragossa, Spain (ca. 40 AD)

After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his Apostles began to spread the message he left throughout Israel and shortly thereafter, through the Roman empire. One of these Apostles, James (the Greater), reportedly traveled as far west as Spain to the village of Saragossa in northeast Spain. While James was there, he became disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that while he was deep in prayer Jesus’ Blessed Mother appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper wood and instructed him to build a church in her honor:

“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.”

The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at a church that houses them. About a year after the apparition James arranged to build a small chapel in Mary’s honor, the first Church ever dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary. After James returned to Jerusalem, he was executed by Herod Agrippa in about 44 AD, the first apostle to be martyred for his faith.