Montserrat April, 2010.
After 6 days of scrapping the anti-foul off and me with the electric sander constantly in my hand we had a day off to go to Montserrat while we had the car available. It is approximately 35 miles outside of Barcelona and overlooks the mountains and surrounding areas.
We followed the signs and left our car in the free car park by the rack railway which takes you up to Montserrat and the journey took approximately 25 minutes. As you can see from the photographs it does not cover a large area as it is cut into the rock.
The highest peak of Montserrat is 4,055 ft and is a magnificent setting for Catalonia’s holiest place, the Monastery of Montserrat which are surrounded by chapels and hermits’ caves. A chapel was first mentioned in the 9th century, the monastery was founded in the 11th century and in 1811, when the French attacked Catalonia in the War of Independence it was destroyed and the monks killed. Rebuilt and repopulated in 1844, it was a beacon of Catalan culture during the Franco years. Today Benedictine monks live there and we were lucky to see 2 walking down the street in their brown outfits.
We stopped for coffee and then made our way to the church of Santa Maria for 1 p.m. to hear the boys sing from the Choir College. The church was full and every standing space was taken for the beautiful 15 minutes of the boys singing.
After their performance and they had left we continued to view the church and see the Black Virgin which looks down from behind the altar. It is protected behind glass, her wooden orb protrudes for pilgrims to touch. The small statue of La Morenta (Black Virgin) is the soul of Montserrat. It is said to be have been made by St. Luke and brought to Montserrat by St. Peter in AD 50. Centuries later, the statue is believed to have been hidden from the Moors in the nearby Santa Cova (Holy Cova). Although other sources believe the statue was carved around the 12th century. In 1881 Montserrat’s Black Virgin became patroness of Catalonia.
The Basilica interior is adorned by a richly enamelled altar and paintings by Catalan artists. Hanging from the ceiling are lanterns of every size and shape which need constant polishing, but very beautiful.
The façade on the basilica is Christ and the Apostles which was built in 1900 to replace the façade of the original church consecrated in 1592.
We took the funicular railway up to the highest point which is now a nature area above the monastery. It was very steep and it gave me a feeling of wanting to fall forward although we were safe in carriages. The very small daffodils were growing on the rocks. From the top we could see many climbers abseiling from other cliffs. Magnificent views for miles around. Even though it was a bright and sunny day it was pretty chilly once you got off the rack railway. We were delighted we had made the trip and it lived up to my expectations.