|basilica of our lady of pillar and la seo cathedral, zaragoza|
|basilica of our lady of pillar and the plaza del pilar, zaragoza|
|the view from our hotel room|
Zaragoza's main square is flanked by two huge churches: The Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar and La Seo (San Salvador) Cathedral.
The basilica, although it dates back to early Christianity, was constructed in its current Baroque style between 1681 and 1872. The exterior is beautiful (those tiles!), and if you're visiting Zaragoza you should definitely take the time to walk across the river to appreciate its full silhouette. There is strictly no photography permitted inside the church, so photos of the interior are relatively difficult to find online, but it houses a few wonderful original examples of Mudejar, Gothic, and Romanesque architecture. It is also still very much a functioning church. As we wandered through, people slipped into confessional booths and kneeled in prayer. Honestly, it's a bit uncomfortable to visit. Numerous (big, capital letter) signs around the church make it very clear how tourists should and should not conduct themselves (i.e. make it very clear tourists are tolerated, but only just). However, it's certainly worth checking out.
La Seo Cathedral, if you haven't already guessed by now, was my favourite of the two. It is, quite simply, enchanting. But you'll have to take my word on it, because again, no photography is permitted here. It was built on the site of a Roman forum and a Moorish mosque and began to develop its current Mudejar form in the 14th century. As you walk inside you are surrounded by the most beautiful, rhythmic Gothic vaulting which pull your eyes up to the church's amazing ceilings and domes. Lace and flesh and flowers made of stone and alabaster cover the walls. It is spectacular. While it too, is a functioning church, it felt much more relaxed and peaceful than its neighbour. It was worth every bit of the €4 admission fee, which also includes entrance to La Seo's tapestry museum (we ran out of time to see it!)
The spires of these two churches have become symbolic of the city of Zaragoza. And you don't need an art history degree to figure out why. Given their complicated architectural histories, La Seo and Our Lady of Pillar are uniquely Saragossian. They are physical expressions of the city's complex past. And they're pretty darn easy on the eyes.
BY THE NUMBERS
entrance to the Our Lady of Pillar: free (donation recommended)
entrance to La Seo Cathedral: €4 (includes museum admission)