There are three prominent holy pilgrimages in the Christian faith: Jerusalem, Rome and the Vatican, and the Camino de Santiago, or the Walk of Saint James. The “Camino francés” is one of the oldest known pilgrimage routes that compose the Camino de Santiago, which passes through the town of Zaragoza in northern Spain.
In Zaragoza one will find the cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Pilar, which is a cathedral that as legend states was build by Saint James the Great in current Zaragoza when Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to him, leaving him with a figure of her and the Christ child stating that a church should be built on these hollowed grounds. The pilar is a jade colored pillar which supports this relic of the mother of Christ and her hold child, the basis for this basilica and thus the surrounding city.
It is here, in Zaragoza that we make a stop on our pilgrimage from Madrid to Barcelona, en route to France much like those who have been walking these sacred streets for over one thousand years. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pace of Spanish life in this sleepy but historic village where every corner had an important and beautiful sight to behold.
It is here, where the history of the Iberian Peninsula can be recognized through the city’s architecture. Building that were once gregorian style churches were conquered by the Moors during their occupation of the city. These churches were modified with towers for calling people to prayer, and also incorporated other elements of arabic architecture such as horseshoe arches, geometric shapes, and teracotta tiles. When reconquered by the Christians post 1492, the then mosques were reconverted into christian cathedrals and were ornate in the then fashionable Baroque style.
Our time in Zaragoza permitted each to absorb this history in their at their own pace through their own filter: some enjoyed lunch in a café, while others explored the insides of the cathedral itself, taking advantage of the ability to climb to the top of the dome and capture breathtaking views of the city. Any stop on a summer afternoon in Spain would not be complete without some delicious gelato (pistachio or me, of coarse!), before once again following the wind to the cost of the Mediterranean. Though our time was brief, it was impossible not to feel like a part of history, our feet walking amidst those that have come so long before in search of healing and answered prayer.
Y nuestro camino sigue…and our walk continues.