The church of Our Lady of Pilar is built adjacent to the Auberge d'Aragon, the seat of the Spanish members of the Order of St John from the Kingdom or Aragon.
It is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to the Apostle St James the Less and his followers on the banks of river Ebro during her lifetime circa 40AD. There she appeared standing on a column around which the community later began to build the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This apparition is the subject to the main altarpiece painted by the Maltese artist Stefano Erardi (1630-1716).
The church was built in the 1670s at the expense of the Knight of Malta Felix de Ayerbe. When he died in 1691, aged 70, his mortal remains were buried in this church. This structure later sustained damages during an earthquake which struck malta in 1693. It was later restored and partly rebuilt in the early eighteenth century, particularly the main facade, after designs by the Roman architect Romano Carapecchia, the resident architect of the Order. The church was also patronised by the Valecian Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Rocaful (1697-1720) and other high ranking Knights of Malta.
In the mid-nineteenth century the church served as a centre for the teaching of catechism and was later taken care of by the Franciscan sisters.
The church underwent extensive restoration and conservation works in 1989-1991 and has been officially handed over to Heritage Malta in November 2007.
Source: Heritage Malta