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Virgen del Portillo, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain

Commemorated on Fourth Sunday of May
Virgen del Portillo, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
In 1118, after 400 years of Islamic rule, Imad ad-Dawla ceded Zaragoza to Alfonso I "the Battler" of Aragon after a siege. The following March, Muslim forces trying to retake the city opened a breach (portillo) in its wall. In the night sky, rallying Christians saw a radiance coming from the wall, with an image of Our Lady. On arriving at the breach, they found the ground piled with dead invaders. In honor of the Virgin's having marshaled angelic hosts to defend the city, King Alfonso ordered a chapel built there, with her statue set in the breach. The building has undergone several major reconstructions in its 900-year history. The baroque church of 1702 is now home to a cosmopolitan congregation including many immigrants from South America.
The foot-high alabaster image occupies an elaborate altarpiece moved to the Portillo Church from the Dominican friary on its destruction in the revolution of 1868. Our Lady holds the child against her with her left arm, in nursing position. Her carved garments include a starry floor-length tunic, a robe, a veil, and a long mantle tied with cords. Like Zaragoza's most famous Virgin, Our Lady of the Pillar, she stands on a draped jasper column, surrounded by a sculpted radiance. 
Celebrated without interruption from the 1400s until the Spanish Civil War and recently resumed, the Virgin's romería takes place on the last Sunday in May. City officials welcome pilgrims to the chapel at 8:30 a.m. After prayers and songs, the procession leaves the church, following the cross, a replica of the Virgin's statue (right), and a banner reading "For a diverse community and peace in the city." Crossing through the Old Town, the group stops at St. Paul's Church, whose parishioners join the march, doing their traditional dance del Gancho along the way to the Plaza del Portillo, where representatives of many countries pray to the Virgin on behalf of their homelands, while a floral offering is presented in the church. Celebrations continue with music, games, dancing, refreshments, and holy mass. The Virgin's replica also participates in the processions of Holy Week. 
Photo of processional replica by Jorge Sesé, "Martes Santo 2010. Oracion del Huerto," Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Cáritas Diocesana Zaragoza, "La parroquia de Ntra Sra del Portillo con los inmigrantes," Upload & Share PowerPoint presentations and documents,
Eduardo Torra De Arana, Guía para visitar los santuarios marianos de Aragón, Ediciones Encuentro, Madrid, 1996
"La virgen del Portillo recorrerá las calles de Zaragoza en Romería," May 29, 2010, Pasión en Zaragoza, 




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