Spanish Navy


History: Our Virgin of Pilar - Submarine Flotilla - Organization - Armada Española - Ministerio de Defensa - Gobierno de España

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018 - document to 13:51:11

History: Our Virgin of Pilar Organization

In the festivity of Cadiz in 1886, the singing groups used to sing different chants on the submarine designed by Lieutenant Isaac Peral and one of those chants said:


I pray God for sure

And to the Virgin of Pilar

That you are dignified in glory

For your colossal invention

When Isaac Peral first dived with his submarine in 1888, he prayed the image of Virgin of Pilar that he had on board, which had been given to him by some friends, a married couple from Zaragoza .He overcame great difficulties and never suffered an accident.

In 1945 in the festivity of Virgin of Pilar, an event was organized in Zaragoza to commemorate the 4 anniversary of the printing of the book Short collection of the sphere & the navigation chart written by the illustrious cosmographer Martin Cortes from Zaragoza, which was a necessary reference book for centuries for sailors all over the world.

The Council of Zaragoza in collaboration with the Secretary of the Navy appointed to the Chief of Naval Operations of the Maritime Department of Cartagena MR. Francisco Bastarreche representing the Navy.

…Besides the honor I am granted personally and as a seaman, I also have the pleasure of being in Zaragoza, city of which I have unforgettable memories , such as the one of Santo Rosario de Cristal de Nuestra Señora del Pilar in 1944, when as Chief of Naval operations of the Maritime Department of Cartagena we included a lantern of the navy, which circulated along the streets of Zaragoza with popular interest, attracted by the crew of the Spanish warships which used to tune the `Salve´ of the seas. And I am still moved by the chance I had to speak in such occasion in the metropolitan cathedral of `El Pilar´, near the Virgin or by the feeling of heroic sounds next to the eroded stones of Puerta Del Carmen.

I will speak clearly. In Cartagena, as a unique monument representing the Spanish science, the Peral submarine is kept as the invention of that man who was ill-treated in his last days. In that submarine, when the first trials of immersion were carried out in Cadiz, Peral and his fellows, carrying on board an image of Virgin del Carmen, they prayed to her in a moment of despair and danger; they managed to escape of the danger to the surface and afterwards, as a promise and in order to thank the Virgin, a safety pin representing a gold submersible was designed, which certainly I have seen among the jewels of Virgin del Pilar.

Francisco de Bastarreche

The Council of Zaragoza in a special session held on 15 of January, 1946, decided unanimously: the gift of an image of Virgin del Pilar to the Submarine Force..

The Holy Image, together with the minutes of the plenary agreement, was given to the Navy and it was decided to place it on a stand in the tile mural situated by the main staircase in the building of the Submarine Base in Cartagena. It has remained there since then.

Since 17 February 2004, the robe donated by the Submarine Force can be seen wrapping up our co-patron in Basílica del Pilar.


Throughout centuries the robes have been a symbol of the devotion to the Santísima Virgen del Pilar out of the basilica and, even inside the basilica, a robe has always been the best offering by the faithful.

The first news of the robes dates back to 1504. In his testament before Martín de la Zaida, notary of Zaragoza, Juan Benedic donated 100 “sueldos” for a robe to be made for the Blessed Virgin. It was the dawn of the XVI century.

Further on in the same century, in 1577, in the notarial record of Mr Pablo de Gurrea there was already a catalogue with an accurate description and valuation of 72 robes. The fact that the valuation of the robes ranged from 2 to 90 escudos seems to suggest that not only upper-class people donated robes to the Blessed Virgin, but also those from other social classes.

From that date on, donations of robes to the Virgin have been made continuously up to now.

The oldest robe that the Virgin has now was donated by the town council in 1762 and was made by the Madres Capuchinas of Zaragoza. It is still in good condition.

The placing of the robe on the Image has not always been the same. In the old days the robe was placed very high on the Virgin, so high that only the heads of the Virgin and the Baby Jesus remained uncovered. That’s the way it can be seen in a painting inside the chapter house of La Seo and on a medallion on display in the Museo Pilarista.

According to Mullé de la Cerda, among others, the placing of the robe was lowered – maybe at the request of Ventura Rodríguez- so as to leave most of the Image uncovered; the robe of the town hall was placed that way every year on 12 October until 1969. It was not until the very end of the XIX century that the robe began to be placed as it is nowadays, leaving the whole Image uncovered and covering up only the Pilar but not completely, as about 30 cm of the lower part of the Pilar can be seen

All the robes are cone-shaped. When the robe is fully outspread, the straight line which links the top apexes is 0,47m long and the line which links the lower ones is 1,39m long. The robe is 0,85m high but it is reduced to 0,79m on both sides.

Every night, after the people responsible for silence to be kept in the basilica have invited the faithful to leave the place, the chaplain climbs the stairs and devotedly removes the robe that has wrapped up the Image all through the day and dresses her in another robe for the following day.

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