The Spanish City of Zaragoza
The Spanish city of Zaragoza occupies a strategic location in the centre of northeastern Spain, being almost equidistant from the major cosmopolitan cities of Madrid and Barcelona on the one hand and Valencia and Bilbao on the other. It is currently the fifth largest city in Spain in terms of population. The Spanish city of Zaragoza is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Aragon. The river Ebro flows past it, and the surrounding landscape, dotted with many picturesque villages, is rather enchanting. The strategic importance of Zaragoza is augmented by the fact that is only 250 kilometres from France.
A Melting Pot of Cultures
Zaragoza is a melting pot of four cultures – Christian, Hebrew, Muslim and Aragonese. This has led to it being nicknamed the “Senora de las cuatro culturas,” or Lady of the four cultures. A search for the origin of the name Zaragoza takes one back to its ancient Roman ruler, Caesar Augusta, who was responsible for founding the city in the year 24 BCE. During the seventh century CE, under Arab occupation, it became an important Islamic center with a new name, Medina Albaida Sarakosta. The reign of Ferdinand (The Catholic) saw the expansion of cultural and commercial activities – the University was established and the Lonja built during that period. In the eighteenth century, the city lost its importance when it ceased to be an administrative center. But at the end of the nineteenth century, industrialization once again thrust Zaragoza into prominence in Spain. Today, the town booms with economic activities, and draws thousands of tourists to its streets with several important international fairs.
Vestiges of the Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian cultures dot the city in the form of the ruins of the Roman Circus, the Aljaferia Palace, the Mudejar-style churches, and the Pilar Basilica. This sixteenth and seventeenth century basilica, situated on the bank of the Ebro River, is surmounted by domes and towers. Its walls are ornamented with frescoes by Goya. Thousands of faithful Christians visit the basilica every year to express their devotion to the tiny statue of the Virgen del Pilar in the Holy Chapel.
Celebration and Festival
During the second week of October, the church hosts an important festival which is celebrated with parades, bullfights, fireworks, flower offerings, and street dancing. Another architectural landmark, the Gothic-Mudejar church of La Seo del Salvador, was built between 1380 and 1550, and displays a rich baroque and Plateresque façade. Its main altar is a sight to behold, and the museum of the church boasts of a fine collection of French and Flemish tapestries from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Other attractions in Zaragoza include the Museo Camon Aznar, the Museo Pablo Gargallo and the Museo de Zaragoza.