The Montserrat Monastery is a lovely, spiritual and historic monastery. We were fortunate to visit as a day trip from Barcelona May 2016 and it was indeed an amazing day.The three highlights for me were seeing the spectacular setting, the mountain's pillars of stone and the gorgeous views over the plains of Catalonia, hearing the Escolania boys' choir perform and seeing the Black Virgin and Child. Those are not listed in order because I simply cannot choose a favorite between them.
Statue of Abat Oliba, Founder of Montserrat Monastery
Stunning vistas in all directions.
The Escolania is among the oldest and best boys' choirs in Europe and the music delivered by them was otherworldly in its beauty . We were so glad we arrived early for their performance, as the Basilica filled up quickly. We not only had seats (many were left standing) but great ones.
Because Montserrat is aimed to facilitate worship of the Black Madonna, also called The Virgin of Montserrat or La Monerata, I consider a visit to her side a must do. She is in a very small room which allows for one or two people to pass directly in front of her. She is behind glass except for her hand which holds a sphere symbolizing the universe. Customarily people touch or kiss the sphere and her hand as they pass by. Many take a quick photograph although I was too engaged in the moment to want to do so once I stepped directly in front of her. I wanted to spend my close up time with her gazing at her artistry, realizing the special moment that this was, while touching her sphere. She sits upon a regal and artfully adorned throne, commanding a prominent spot above the altar.
One of the the legends of the Catholic tradition is that she was carved in Jerusalem by St. Luke around 50 AD. After being brought to Spain she was hidden in a cave, the Holly Grotto or Santa Cova, to protect her from the Moors. When she was discovered, the plan was to move her to a different location but she was too heavy to be lifted. It was believed she had spoken, indicating her will to remain at Montserrat.
Afterwards many miracles were attributed to the Virgin which resulted in her fame. During the Middle Ages, the monastery was enlarged simply to accommodate the flocks of pilgrims arriving at the site. She was declared the patron saint of Catalonia in 1844 by Pope Leo. This is one of the most famous Black Madonnas in the world so expect a queue to visit her up close.They do offer an alternate path to her side for persons with mobility issues. My boot and I took this disabled path. Lucky me, passing the queue again. I call that lemonade.
I love this photo even if I did take it. It is La Monerata from the side as the person ahead of me leaned in to kiss her hand. Next was my turn.Knowing that this has been a site of pilgrimage since the 12th century filled me with awe and made the moment emotionally stirring. I highly, highly recommend a visit to the Shrine of Montserrat, regardless of one’s beliefs or faith.
Museu de Montserrat
Oops, I guess that makes four favorites at Montserrat!
This is a gem of an art museum. So rich and wonderful. Think Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Caravaggio, Chagall, the list goes on and on and on. We all three adored this museum. The first mention of visiting Spain was from Mike who wanted to see Spain’s art. We certainly saw many memorable works.
Gloria Rodriguez was a terrific guide in Barcelona and Montserrat. She is not only a native of Barcelona but also an art historian. She was perfect for us because her passion is combining art, history and local culture. She was also fun. We had planned to take a train to Montserrat but with my broken foot, she found someone to provide auto transportation for us, door to door, at the last minute. Thank you Gloria!! If in the area, don't even think about it, just go visit Montserrat.