La del Pilar

Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar

The church of Nuetra Señora del Pilar is a basilica located in La Recoleta district of Buenos Aires. It was part of the "Convento de Recoletos Franciscanos". Its construction (which ended in 1732) was due to the Aragonese patron of Narbonne. Since the XVIII century is one of the parishes in the city of Buenos Aires and the second oldest church in the city.


In 1705, Captain Pedro Bustinza asked permission to governor of Buenos Aires, Juan Alonso de Valdez, to build the Convent of the Recollects of the Reformed Order of San Francisco. But only in 1716,( by a royal decree of Felipe V of Spain ) was authorized. As Bustinza had died, Juan de Narbonne offered to build it, as patron and sponsor of the work. Once accepted his proposal he dedicated his work to the Virgin of Pilar.( in remembrance and tribute to his hometown, Zaragoza, and its citizien´s loved and venerated Virgen)

The Italian Jesuit architect Andrés Bianchi started to build (known in texts of art as Andrés Blanqui) and was finished by Juan Bautista Prímoli. Finnaly it was inaugurated on October 12, 1732 under the title Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and as second patron was designed San Pedro de Alcantara. The Asunción of Paraguay Franciscan Bishop Pedro de Alcantara consecrated the church on May 30, 1734.

.In 1821, Governor Martin Rodriguez and his Minister of Government Bernardino Rivadavia, expropriated the cherch and monks were driven of. The convent was closed for years and in the parcel that had been her garden was created Recoleta Cemetery and the site of other monastic buildings, the Recoleta Cultural Center. On November 18, 1829 was elevated to parish and Pope Pius XI elevated to the dignity of minor basilica in 1936.

In 1942, was declared Monumento Histórico Nacional (National History Building)


The temple is characterized by the simplicity of its asymmetrical facade. A double set of pilasters supporting a triangular pediment, crowned by five pinnacles.

To the left rises a square based bell tower ( a drum shaped body), with windows and a bell-shaped top, covered in white and blu tiles. At the top of the structure, a bronze ball supports an iron cross and a wheathervan. On the right there is an open belfry with double arch, topped by three pinnacles and an English spherical clock .

At it´s construction time, it was the highest point of Buenos Aires.

The church has a small crypt and a place called The Cloisters, a vestige of what once was the cloister of the monastery, currently devoted to museum.


The main altar consists of a single nave with a highly developed cruiser covered by a vaulted ceilling. The side chapels are shallow and the presbytery is rectangular.

The main altar is a piece of baroque art decorated with handmade silver pieces from the " Imperio Inca "(Perú). It´s central figure is Christ and at his sides there are the figures of two Franciscan Saints.

Lateral altars of the nave are also baroque. The wood carving of San Pedro de Alcantara, co-patron of the church, is of the eighteenth century and is attributed to the sculptor Alonso Cano, while the "Altar de las Reliquias", according to tradition, was a gift from King Carlos III of Spain. The inner pulpit is Baroque also.

You can also see the famous tiles from Pas de Calais as decorative elements on the walls.

Located in "La Recoleta" , one of the Buenos Aires "barrios" (districts) is it´s most representative church. A real jewel of Spanish colonial architecture , a rich history and a great heritage also.

Texto: adapted from Susana Espósito -

Published in Producción Artística