Today is our rest day in the beautiful city of Zaragoza! We all agreed that it comes at a perfect place in our journey. Our regular rhythm of walking until our communal meal at 2:00pm is relaxed today. We spent the day washing clothes, exploring churches and museums, and beating the heat with siesta time. We gathered for evening prayer and pinxtos (small bites) to close the day.
Zaragoza is a 2,000 year old city that takes its name from Caesar (Zara) Augustus (Agoza) who chose a prime spot on the Ebro River that flows to both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic. Some of the ancient Roman ruins are still visible today. Zaragoza is the capitol of the Aragón region. When we crossed over from the Basque country into the town of Alagón yesterday, we could immediately see the influence of Muslim and Arabic culture in the architecture and design of the buildings. When Muslim rule ended after 700 years with the Christian “Reconquest” that took place around 1035, they added iron crosses atop the minaret towers of the mosques. We were amazed that most of the towers that we saw had become nesting places for giant white storks that peacefully coexist with the swallows that soar by.
In Zaragoza, there is evidence that there was some tolerance of the two cultures living side by side. However, four years after Ignatius passed through on his pilgrim’s journey, Muslims could no longer practice their faith in Aragón. The site of the shrine to Our Lady of Pilar, which Ignatius visited, has now been expanded into the Basilica of El Pilar, a center of Marian devotion. We were able to view the many Goya paintings there, as well an early fresco painted by Goya (at the age of nineteen) that we saw yesterday in the former Jesuit House of Formation in Alagón.
You can see from our photo that Zaragoza is a beacon of light on the river way. We are grateful for our day of rest in this beautiful city.