On the top of a rocky ridge in near the town of Barbastro, in the Huesca province is a small shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Torreciudad, a “Black Madonna.”
Black Madonna’s are images of the Virgin Mary depicted with dark skin. Created in medieval Europe, the origin of the black Madonna are unknown though some scholars believe that the dark skin represents a blending with pre-Christian female icons. Relatively rare, with roughly 350-400 throughout Europe, they are seen as special and given particular reverance.
In 1904, a very ill two year old named Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was taken by his parents to this Black Madonna mountain shrine to be healed. The young Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer not just recovered but would go on to found Opus Dei in 1928, which teaches that ordinary life is a path to sanctity, and everyone can be holy. Opus Deibecame a huge movement within the church and Escrivá was sainted in 2002.
(Opus Dei is also a very controversial movement within the Catholic Church, particularly for its use of mortification of the flesh, such as the use of a cilice — a small metal band with inward pointing spikes worn around the upper thigh. Josemaria Escriva himself felt pain - both spiritual and physical - was holy, saying “Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain. Glorified be pain!” Opus Dei got thrust into the spotlight when it was featured in Dan Brown’s factually ridiculous book the Da Vinci Code.)
Nearly seventy years after his recovery at the shrine, Josemaria Escriva decided to build a monument to God near the shrine that saved his life. Called the Santuary of Torreciudad, it was inaugurated on 7 July 1975, shortly after Josemaría Escrivá’s death.
The sanctuary done in a 1970s architectural style holds a crypt, a 30 foot alter, and a large bronze Christ. The chapel contains an old inn, which is also open to the public. The church is also the site of major pilgrimage between April and October.
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