The Sanctuary of Torreciudad is located near the town of Barbastro, in the Huesca province. It belongs to the Aragonese Ribagorza county, but it is located very close to other two important counties: “Somontano” and “Sobrarbe”. This modern sanctuary, placed just a few meters away from the antique shrine, is a meeting point for many groups and families. It is known as the Sanctuary of the Families.
The devotion to the Virgin of Torreciudad
The image of Our Lady of Torreciudad is a Romanesque elm wood carving statue. It shows brilliantly the primitive facial expressions of the Virgin Mary and Child.
According to tradition and corroborated by historians, this image was venerated even before 1084. Due to the Arab domination, the image was hidden and later recovered near the hermitage (when the land was reconquered by the Christians).
The love professed to Our Lady by Saint Josemaría made him work hard to see the sanctuary become a reality. Years before and after a surprising recovery from a serious illness, he was taken by his parents on a pilgrimage to thank the Virgin for such a recovery.
The image was covered with a gold layer. This layer enhances the dignity of the image and it is considered a great example of interest from both, the historic and artistic point of view.
This type of iconography is the kind known as the “Majesty of Our Lady” or “Sedes Sapientiae”. It was widely used during the High Middle Ages.
The old hermitage that is located near the sanctuary is the place that housed the original image of the Virgin of Torreciudad.
Today, just like throughout nine centuries of history, this small hermitage remains as a pleasant meeting point for the people of the neighbouring shires, as they frequently celebrate mass, weddings, anniversaries and other events there.
The new sanctuary
Torreciudad is today a meeting and pilgrimage point for thousands of people and it is one of the most visited places in the Pyrenees. This modern sanctuary was placed just a few meters away from the old shrine (origin of the devotion to virgin of Torreciudad around the 11th century).
Dedicated to Virgin Mary, the history of the new sanctuary begins in 1956, thanks to the love to the Virgin of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of the Opus Dei. He had the idea of building it there. A group of people supported this initiative and worked hard to found this sanctuary. The architect Heliodoro Dols was in charge of the direction of the works, which began in 1970 and ended five years later.
The set (square, temple and the adjoining buildings) stands out due to the variety of avant-garde forms. They give the sanctuary a very personal style.
At the same time, it was conceived as very plain and modest construction. It presents a creative construction based on the use of traditional Aragonese elements such as stone, alabaster and mainly bricks.
The square, built to welcome thousands of pilgrims and visitors is a place to celebrate mass, events and other celebrations for massive audiences. The stone arches allow the view of the ‘El Grado’ (lake) blue waters and the snow-capped summits. The bricks (humble material) provide Torreciudad with a very familiar and human dimension.
The Holy Mass and other acts are celebrated at the esplanade with a big attendance of pilgrims.
The interior of the temple is an invitation for prayer and meditation. An ambiance of peace and serenity is perceived when entering the building. It is an immediate feeling for pilgrims and visitors. The moment you get in, all the looks are directed to the great altarpiece that dominates the inside of the nave. The altarpiece was sculpted in alabaster by Joan Mayné. Different scenes of Virgin Mary are represented on this piece. The bottom side is reserved for the holy image.
Very close to the altarpiece and on top of a pedestal, there is a sculpture of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. It was placed there after being sanctified.
Another area of importance inside the building is the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, dominated by a bronze image of a crucified Christ made by the Italian artist Pasquale Sciancalepore. Visitors and pilgrims have access to the Virgin´s Medallion through a door located in the right side of the presbytery. This is a medal that pilgrims kissed in the past and continue kissing today.
The new Museum and Exhibition Spaces
These new Museum and Exhibition spaces offer to travellers and pilgrims a new sensory and virtual reality experience to know the essence of this Marian sanctuary, the second in number of visits in Aragon. Different technologies put at the service of the visitor several contents that unite the faith with the culture. It is a different way of interacting through personal reflection.
1.- Center “Live the experience of faith”
The “Live the Experience of Faith” space offers the visitor to Torreciudad an amazing multimedia immersion in which, through several areas, various questions and reflections are posed on the fundamental questions of human life: God, freedom, happiness, the Virgin Mary, love… Its objective is to improve the understanding of what the sanctuary is, and to facilitate the experience of a joyful interior renewal.
A brochure, which can be downloaded here, helps to make the most of the tour with suggestions and information related to the contents of each area.
(Estimated visit duration: 45 minutes)
2.-Video-mapping “The reredos speaks to you”
The video-mapping projection “The reredos speaks to you” is a fascinating audiovisual experience in which the reredos displays the richness of its content through a dialogue between Saint Josemaría and the Virgin Mary.
(Duration: 6 minutes)
3.- The gallery of the Marian Images
The gallery of the Marian Images is a gallery with different representations of the Virgin Mary. Totally renovated, this gallery is one of the most valued and frequented places in the Sanctuary. A modern exhibition space has been installed along the main corridor leading to the Holy Family Chapel. Carefully lit and in keeping with the architecture of the Sanctuary, it is a place where pilgrims can view a wide range of images, grouped according to geographical and mariological criteria.
The replicas were given as present when people from different parrishes arrived on pilgrimage. Everything began in 1984 during the 11th Centenary of Torreciudad. Nowadays, there are most of five hundred images. Visitors also have at their disposal two large touch screens in which they can search for the photographs of other patronal images that have been brought to the Sanctuary over the years.
The gallery is not a museum or a collection that tries to grow every year. It just wants to be a true testimony of the love and devotion to the Virgin shown by large or small groups.
4.- Exhibition “A thousand-year-old devotion”
The old historical exhibition of Torreciudad has had its content completely renewed and has opted for an interactive dialogue with the visitor.
Located at the entrance to the Esplanade, in the building on the left, the tour begins with the medieval origins of the devotion to Our Lady of Torreciudad and covers four areas: ‘A Marian Sanctuary’, ‘The History of the Virgin of Torreciudad’, ‘The New Sanctuary’ and ‘The Heartbeats of Torreciudad’.
In each of them, written, photographic, infographic and audiovisual materials are cleverly combined to provide an attractive and lasting educational experience.
San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was born in Barbastro (Huesca, Spain) on January 9th 1902.
He got seriously ill when he was 2 years old. When doctors did not give him any chance of survival, his parents prayed to the Virgin entrusting her with his recovery. Months later and after a surprising recovery, the parents were on a pilgrimage to the Torreciudad hermitage. This was done as a gesture of gratitude.
He received the priestly ordainment in Zaragoza. Later on he moved to Madrid. He founded the Opus Dei in 1928. He escaped to France when the civil war started. He would later come back but he set his residence in Rome. He got his doctorate in Theology and he was appointed His Highness Prelate of honour.
Moved by his love to the Holy Virgin, he promoted the construction of a new sanctuary in Torreciudad. With the construction in progress, he visited the construction site in 1970 and 1075 (just a month before dying).
He died in Rome on June 26 1975. On May 17 1992, Pope John Paul II beatified him and proclaimed him saint ten years later. His body rests in a funerary urn located under the altar of the Saint Mary of Peace Church in Rome.
Opening hours and services
The APRM is an association non profit constituted by the shrines of Pilar, Torreciudad, Meritxell, Montserrat and Lourdes whose general purpose is the promotion of this Marian Route, its sanctuaries and the historical, artistic and natural ensembles of the regions where they are located.
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50004 – Zaragoza (Spain)
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