Hulking on the banks of the Ebro, the basilica, often known simply as "La Pilarica," or "El Pilar," is Zaragoza's symbol and pride. An immense baroque structure with no fewer than 11 tile cupolas, La Pilarica is the home of the Virgen del Pilar, the patron saint not only of peninsular Spain but of the entire Hispanic world. The fiestas honoring this most Spanish of saints, held the week of October 12, are events of extraordinary pride and Spanish fervor, with processions, street concerts, bullfights, and traditional jota dancing. The cathedral was built in the 18th century to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin on a pillar (pilar), or pedestal, to St. James, Spain's other patron saint, during his legendary appearance as Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moorslayer) in the 9th century. La Pilarica herself resides in a side chapel that dates from 1754. Among the basilica's treasures are two frescoes by Goya, one of them, El Coreto de la Vírgen, painted when he
was young and the other, the famous Regina Martirum, after his studies in Italy. The bombs displayed to the right of the altar of La Pilarica chapel fell through the roof of the church in 1936 and miraculously failed to explode. You can still see both of the holes, one in the corner of the earlier Goya fresco and the other by the top of the column overhead to the left. Behind La Pilarica's altar is the tiny opening where the devout line up to kiss the rough marble pillar where La Pilarica is believed to have been discovered. There is an elevator in one of the towers for easy access to great views of the city.