Once an ancient Iberian, Roman and Moorish settlement, Zaragoza is the fifth largest city in Spain and it's an easy high-speed train ride from Madrid and Barcelona. The most important landmark is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which is said to be the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary consoled Apostle James in 40 A.D during a time of distress and placed a pillar on that exact site where the first Iglesia Mariana should be built. That very same pillar still exists today in the Basílica. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics alike visit the Basílica to kiss that very pillar seeking protection and showing their faith and love for Virgen del Pilar.
Every October, the entire city of Zaragoza celebrates the honor of the Virgen del Pilar with the Fiestas del Pilar. There are parties every day, exhibitions, bullfighting, las vaquillas (amateurs face young cows in the bullring), Fiesta de la Cerveza Oktoberfest, as well as many music concerts at night.
This year, the festival runs from October 6th and continues until October 14th; the most important day is on October 12th when groups in traditional costumes make a pilgrimage through the city streets to the Basílica for "The Offering of Flowers" to the Blessed Virgin Mary showing their devotion.
So, if you´re near Zaragoza this week, check out the festivities and experience a great part of Spanish culture. Don´t miss entering the Basílica del Pilar. It´s well worth the wait to see Goya's frescoes and have your opportunity to kiss the pillar inside.
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