The Cathedral of Nuestra Señora del Pilar is located in the city of Zaragoza (halfway from Barcelona and Madrid) one of Spain´s best well-known cathedrals. Its shape features numerous domes and four very high towers in its corners. The domes are covered with polychrome ceramic tiles. The larges dome is located at the very center of the cathedral.  The Cathedral of El Pilar is the icon of Zaragoza and it is located in the square with the same name, very close to the Ebro river. In this guide, we will share with you all the information you need to take into account to make the most of your visit to The Cathedral of El Pilar in Zaragoza.

Cathedral of E Pilar de Zaragoza visitors`guide

The building, which dominates the whole town, was designed by Master Enrique, who also built the Gothic cathedral in León. The Puerta Real or Santa María portal in the main façade is from the 18th Century. Most of its figures are missing. Above it is a beautiful rose window. The main façade also has two further doors, and these have bas-reliefs by Juan Poves (1653).

On each side there is a tall, elegant tower (276 feet high); these were built in 1442 by Juan de Colonia and make an unusual sight with their carvings, arabesques, columns, statues ,and spires.

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How much time do you need to visit the El Pilar Cathedral?

We estimate you will need to 2 hours to visit the Cathedral. This will give you enough time to admire the cathedral from outside the large square of El Pilar and also from inside. 

El Pilar cathedral. History

Legend says that the cathedral was built in the spot where the Virgin Mary met Apostle James (Santiago) in 40 AD. This was not a vision, but a meeting. The Apostle was in Zaragoza and the Virgin visited him from Efesso. This story connects the Cathedral of El Pilar with Saint James and the Camino de Santiago or Saint James Way.

A simple chapel was built to commemorate this meeting with a marble column located there where the vision seemed to happen. It is this column (Pilar in Spanish) that gives the name to the cathedral.
A Romanesque church was built later but as is the case on many occasions it suffered from a fire. From this church, few elements are still today in place in the cathedral, the most important one being the tympanum in the cathedral façade.
The construction of the cathedral with its present form was initiated in 1515 at the instance of Archbishop Hernando de Aragon. The initial project and idea was to build a single-aisled gothic church.
This initial effort continued in baroque style in 1677. The architect at that time was Francisco de Herrera, the son of the famous architect responsible for the construction of El Escorial Monastery near Madrid. Large parts of the cathedral were later built in classical style by Ventura Rodriguez in 1753.

Highlights – El pilar Cathedral

Today the cathedral has a nave and two aisles and a rectangular ground plan. At the corners of the cathedral stand the four towers (98 meters high)

There are numerous side chapels between the buttresses. One of the most outstanding things about the cathedral of El Pilar is the immense value of its paintings. Saint Chapel are scenes of the apparition of the virgin and they were painted by Antonio Gonzalez Velazquez.

Francisco Bayeu was commissioned with the decoration of the four vaults in the chapel, while the decoration of the main dome was painted in the 19th century by Bernadino Montañes.


One of the most important parts of the Cathedral of El Pilar and which draws lots of attention is the choir. The decoration of the choir was entrusted to Goya in 1772. He designed superb allegorical frescos. The choir ends in a beautiful grille made by Juam Celma in 1574. The choir stalls consist of 150 seats arranged in 3 rows.

Chapel of La Virgen del Pilar

The entrance to the Cathedral is from the Plaza del Pilar. The first thing you will find is Saint Chapel. This chapel was redecorated in Baroque style by Ventura Rodriguez, one of Spain´s most famous artists of that time. As you may expect from Baroque decoration, the chapel is richly adorned with marble and silver. In the centre of the chapel, allegedly, on the spot where Saint James met the virgin Mary, stands the Gothic alabaster statue of the Virgen del Pilar. The statue dates from the 14th century and it seems the author was a French Master.

One interesting thing about the Virgin is that she is dressed with up to 450 different mantos or coats!. The manto of The Virgin of El Pilar is changed everyday.

The statue of La Virgen del Pilar

The statue of the Virgin (known by locals as “La Pilarica”) is a small 38-centimeter wood-carved statue. She holds Christ on her arms. Christ holds a bird. The statue stands on a silver-clad marble column and, as we said already, is dressed everyday with a different coat. The statue is framed by the right altar. The column, from what it has been described, is today 5 centimeters smaller than it used to be. Why you may ask? Due to the erosion caused by the kisses of the devotees.

Above the central altar is a relief from the 18th century by Carlos Salas which shows the assumption of the Virgin. The left altar by Ramirez depicts Saint James and his disciples.

High altar

Another of the cathedral´s highlights stands on the western part. It is the alabaster high altar (1509) in which both gothic and renaissance elements are combined. This is with no doubt one of the top things to enjoy at El Pilar.

Amongst the most interesting chapels worth paying attention to are: The chapel of san Lorenzo, the chapel of La Virgen del Rosario, and the chapel of San Juan Bautista.

The civil war bombs

A very important anecdote in El Pilar has to do with the bombs that fell on the Cathedral at the time of the Spanish civil war but which did not explode. They are shown next to the Chapel of the Virgin.

Cathedral of El Pilar – Video


Other Cathedrals in Spain

Valencia cathedral

After James I of Aragon had taken Valencia in 1238, Gothic churches and monasteries were built in Valencia and all along the coast. Almost all these buildings were later altered in the baroque style and thereby frequently disfigured, This fact also applies in part to Valencia cathedral. In 1262 the foundation stone was laid for the building, on whose site there had previously stood a Roman temple of Diana,a Visigoth church and after this a mosque. Table of Contents –

Palma de Mallorca Cathedral

Mallorca cathedral was built between 1230 and 1600 and thus has parts which are Renaissance despite most of the building is gothic. Locals from Mallorca refer to the Cathedral as “La Seu”. La Seu is the most impressive building in the city of Palma de Mallorca and one of the best gothic cathedrals in Spain.  It keeps many anecdotes and secrets, like the intervention of Antoni Gaudi in its completion.  Cathedral of Mallorca Tours to enjoy the Cathedral of Mallorca

Burgos Cathedral

Burgos Cathedral is located in the city of Burgos, in the region of Castilla Leon. The building that we see today stands on site of the original building and was buit in 1221 on the orders of King Ferdinand III (the Holy) and Bishop Mauricio. Cathedral of Burgos visitors`guide The building, which dominates the whole town, was designed by Master Enrique, who also built the Gothic cathedral in León. The Puerta Real or Santa María portal in the main façade

Cathedral Segovia

Cathedral of Segovia

The old cathedral was totally destroyed in the revolt of the Comuneros. Charles V ordered a new cathedral with a different ground plan to be built on a higher site. Building of the late Gothic cathedral began in 1525. It is known as the “Lady of the Spanish cathedrals‘ owing to its elegance, slender lines, and restrained austerity. The ground plan was drawn up by Juan Gil de Hontañón, who was simultaneously building Salamanca Cathedral. After his death García de

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