On the top of a rocky ridge 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 is 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 reverence.
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 only recovered, but went on to found Opus Dei in 1928, a Catholic movement that teaches that ordinary life is a path to sanctity and everyone can be holy. Opus Dei became a huge movement within the church and Escrivá was canonized in 2002.
Nearly 70 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 Sanctuary of Torreciudad, it was inaugurated on July 7, 1975, shortly after Josemaría Escrivá’s death.
The sanctuary done in a 1970s architectural style holds a crypt, a 30-foot altar, and a large bronze statue of 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.