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Notre Dame du Laus

History of the first shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Of all the pilgrimages that Catholic Spain has, one of the most famous is undoubtedly the shrine dedicated to God under the invocation of Our Lady of the Pillar. When the first twelve Apostles dispersed to evangelize the world, St. James the Greater was led by Providence to Spain. In spite of the ardor of his zeal, his ministry had remained almost fruitless.

According to an ancient and pious tradition, St. James, having visited Oviedo, Padron and other places, had stopped for a longer time in Zaragoza, where he had made several disciples. He gathered them every evening in a rural place, where he instructed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. However, the success did not match the ardor of his desires, because the progress of the good news was slow, the seed he had sown was barely rising, and the number of souls he had been able to win to Jesus Christ was small. He was overcome with great sorrow, and when night came, following the example of the divine Master, he took his disciples with him and led them to the shores of the Ebro, as Jesus led His own to the Jordan shore, and there he prayed with them, weeping copiously.

While he was sobbing and moaning, the faithful around the Apostle heard the choirs of angels singing in a divine rhythm: Ave, Maria, gratia plena! They immediately saw, in the midst of the heavenly spirits, the figure of a Lady, radiant with beauty, resting on a marble pillar. Saint James recognized the Mother of God and prostrated himself before Her. The Blessed Virgin Mary said to him: “In this same place, build a church to God in My name, since I know that this part of Spain will be very devoted and affectionate to Me. From now on, I take it in My safeguard and protection.” After these words, the vision disappeared, and the holy Apostle did what he had been ordered to do by Heaven: he built a chapel which was called Our Lady of the Pillar, because the Blessed Virgin had appeared to him on a jasper pillar.

We do not know for how long the holy Apostle remained in Spain, but what is certain is that he returned to Jerusalem, where he was martyred and was the first of the apostles to shed his blood for the cause of Jesus Christ.

(Father Huguet)

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