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Officially titled Santa Maria de Montserrat, Montserrat Monastery is an important medieval abbey and one of the most important religious sites in Catalonia.
Sitting high among the mountains of the Catalan countryside, it offers visitors stunning views of the surrounding area as well as eye-catching architecture and history.
It is believed the history of the Montserrat monastery site stretches back to at least the ninth century AD, when it is thought an early Christian chapel stood on the site. The monastery itself was founded in 1025 by Abbott Oliba, who was one of the most important religious figures in Catalonia at the time.
The structure we now see has its roots in the 13th century and was constructed in Romanesque form. Today visitors to Santa Maria de Montserrat can explore the historic monastery as well as taking in the Montserrat Museum which contains a collection of important works of art, including works by Picasso.
Montserrat Spain: an unforgettable trip from Barcelona
Travelling to Montserrat, Spain, is a great excursion from Barcelona. A mountain monastery high in the Sierra de Montserrat, this unique Spanish destination appeals to hikers, spiritual pilgrims and lovers of history. You can visit Montserrat as a day trip from Barcelona &ndash and most people do &ndash but I recommend lingering longer to soak up the atmosphere and dodge the crowds. Read on for my experience or scroll down for all the how to&rsquos.
A Little About The Montserrat Monastery
Overwhelmed by the experience the children ran home to tell their parents. The parents were skeptical but knew their children were trustworthy and honest. They went to where the children had experienced the visions to investigate. The month following the visitation, the parents also experienced the same visions. They believed that they were left with only one conclusion. The visions were a sign from God.
A local vicar came to the scene and saw the same visions as the children and parents had. The visions occurred in the same location in a cave on Montserrat mountain. When exploring this cave, the religious elders found an image of the Virgin Mary. And from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims.
Today the site of the visions has is a Holy Grotto on the mountain. You can walk to the Holy Grotto and see first hand where these events took place. The Holy Grotto is now ordained a holy place by the church. It received faithful pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
Montserrat Monastery in Catalonia
One of the best things to do in Barcelona is visiting Montserrat Monastery, a pilgrimage site, an ideal location for climbing walls, a view point from where to have the most amazing views, a place of culture with an art museum filled with masterpieces from all over the world. We call Montserrat “our Ayer’s rock” our Uluru Kata Tjuta” as called by the Australian Aborigins and we so enjoy going to visit as we always notice something new and different on every trip.
During the Eocene epoch (some 50 million years ago), this rugged mountain was at the bottom of what it is the Mediterranean Sea today. The whole of Catalonia dried up and with time, deposits left rose up until mud and pebbles became rocks polished by the Llobregat River and the elements shaped it to how it looks today.
It has become an important place of pilgrimage since early age as according to history, a Black Virgin was found in the holy grotto (Santa Cova) in 880AD which was carved by Sant Luke the Evangelist, who was a surgeon as well as an artist. This sculpture was brought to Spain and then hidden in the serrated mountain of Montserrat.
The statue was found by shepherds after seeing a bright light accompanied by celestial music which guided them towards the grotto to find it. Thank heavens it was extremely heavy so it had to stay in its present location at Montserrat, as the Manresa Bishop had proposed to move it from where it was found.
During the 9th C. four chapels were built on the mountain and by the 11th C. the Oliba Bishop founded a Monastery in the heart of Montserrat. The 12th C. saw Montserrat become a site of pilgrimage and to manage visitors volumes, the monastery building extended in size. The basilica of Montserrat achieve its consecration on 1592.
The population is largely of African ancestry (black), with small numbers of people of European descent (white) and of mixed descent. The official language is English, but most Montserratians also speak a Creole language similar to that spoken in Jamaica. The main religious denominations are Christian: Anglicanism, Methodism, Pentecostalism, Roman Catholicism, and Seventh-day Adventism.
Prior to the mid-1990s, Montserrat’s population was relatively stable because of emigration and a low birth rate. Plymouth and its environs were the main centres of settlement. The island’s population exceeded 10,000 in the early 1990s, but during the volcano crisis more than two-thirds of Montserratians departed for the United Kingdom, neighbouring Antigua, and other parts of the Caribbean region. Some had returned by the late 1990s however, renewed eruptions discouraged resettlement, and access to the southern two-thirds of the island has since been restricted. There are about a dozen small settlements in the western and northern coastal regions, including Look Out, Brades, St. John’s, St. Peter’s, and Davy Hill.
Montserrat: a mountain, a religious symbol, and a world-class choir
If one had to explain what makes Montserrat unique, the greatest challenge would be settling on a single reason.
For beginners, Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain range, with summits as high as 1,236 meters above sea level, resembling a lone yet large rocky citadel emerging from the plains of central Catalonia.
Yet Montserrat is also home to a 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery, which has played a pivotal role throughout Catalonia&rsquos history, and houses a world-famous boys&rsquo choir and the iconic carved sculpture of a black Madonna known as &lsquoLa Moreneta&rsquo.
And then, of course, there&rsquos also the monastery&rsquos library encompassing 300,000 books and a museum featuring 1,300 artworks, including paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Picasso, Dalí, or Monet.
Over the last decades, with the boom of the tourism industry in Catalonia, and especially Barcelona, Montserrat has also become the most popular attraction outside of the Catalan capital, with 2.7 million people visiting the complex in 2019.
How to get there
Montserrat&rsquos proximity to Barcelona can help explain its overwhelming popularity. The monastery is a mere hour drive from the city center, while public transportation is also a quick and affordable way to get to the abbey.
A favorite way of getting there from the foot of the mountain to the monastery is the rack train, which takes visitors on a 15-minute ride through Montserrat&rsquos rocky formations.
The train was first inaugurated in 1892. During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, it was used to carry injured soldiers to the military hospital located on the mountain. It stopped running in the 50s following a fatal accident and the growth in other means of transport aided by road access or the cable car. It reopened in the 2000s as Montserrat was becoming a tourist hotspot.
The challenges facing the boys&rsquo choir
One of Montserrat&rsquos crown jewels is the Escolania boys&rsquo choir, dating back 700 years, and which has evolved into a top-notch music school for kids aged 9 to 14, recognized by the BBC as one of the world&rsquos top ten choirs .
Speaking to Catalan News, 12-year-olds Pol Caro and Albert Folch explain that as students at the Escolania they spend the week at Montserrat, which has a boarding school, and go home for the weekend to spend time with their families.
Their main tasks consist of singing at the daily mass, with their catalogue including hundreds of music compositions spanning centuries. The most famous of all, often referenced in popular culture, is the &lsquoVirolai&rsquo, dedicated to the black Madonna.
In the morning, boys take regular courses, such as math, science, or English, and after lunch they focus on the musical training, with each student learning to play piano and a second instrument.
"There are lots of good friends, lots of good teachers, and a lot of music," said Caro. Folch stressed that his favorite things were "all the concerts" and going on tour abroad. The choir has visited Norway, Russia, or Germany in recent years.
Efrem de Montellà, a monk and the Escolania director, said that the pandemic has posed an existential threat to the institution, with new admissions plummeting over the last year.
However, the Escolania resists the idea of admitting girls, citing the importance of a historic tradition and alleging that boys could be shy singing next to girls. "Changes take time and don't happen immediately," he said. "For now, our approach has been to maintain the ancient tradition."
Central to achieving musical excellence are resources. There are 30 teachers and under 50 students. Tuition is a few hundred euros a month, but that is a tiny fraction of the Escolania&rsquos real cost, which receives financial contributions from public institutions and private sponsors.
The agreement between the Escolania and the Catalan government&rsquos Department of Education, which media outlets say has translated into millions of euros in public subsidies , has attracted criticism from the largest teachers&rsquo union, USTEC, which called it an "aberration," saying that twice as much public money goes to each Escolania student than to public school students.
The black Madonna
Another key element of Montserrat is &lsquoLa Moreneta,&rsquo the celebrated black Madonna whose origins remain the subject of myths.
Legend has it that two young shepherds found the figure at the end of the ninth century. They saw a light shining on the mountain and found her inside a cave. The bishop of Manresa, a nearby town, wanted to bring the madonna there, but it was too heavy. This was taken as a sign that she had to be left where she was found and a monastery was eventually built around her.
The statue currently on display, carved out of wood and allegedly blackened by the smoke of candles, is believed to date back to the XII century.
In 1881, pope Leon XIII officially proclaimed the Mare de Déu de Montserrat (Montserrat&rsquos Virgin Mary) as the patron saint of Catalonia, with the festivity celebrated every year on April 27.
Spain: Montserrat, Monastery in the Mountains
During a stay in Tarragona, we take a bus trip to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, a place I had been wanting to visit for a long time. The bus winds its way up into the Montserrat Mountains for what seems like hours but is only forty minutes. Why would anyone build a monastery way up here? Our guide, a pleasant and well informed young man named Victor, explains it to us in three languages, English, French and Spanish. Legend has it that around 880 AD, shepherds heard music and saw a light coming from a cave high in the mountains. Inside they discovered a Black Madonna. The statue, the oldest Black Madonna in Europe, is only 60 cm tall but when the bishop from the nearest town in the valley came to have it removed and taken to his cathedral, it proved impossible to move. So pilgrims began coming up to the mountain to see it. Eventually, an abbey was built to commemorate the Virgin.
Once we reach our destination, the view from the top is incredible and well worth the trip.
The Gothic-style Basilica and surrounding grounds are amazing. Alcoves in the walls hold statues, including one of San Jorge (St. George), the patron saint of Catalonia. The figure looks very much like a Gaudi creation. Not surprising, as Catalonia´s most famous designer worked on the Basilica as a young man. Montserrat is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and a Benedictine monastery and has served pilgrims and visitors to the mountain for approximately one thousand years. It sits majestically against the backdrop of the rugged mountains. The building has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times over the years, including during the Napoleonic wars, when many of the monks onsite were sadly killed. It was also damaged in the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939). The current building was completed in 1949. Montserrat Basilica has been modernised to attend to the needs of pilgrims over the course of one thousand years.
Directly in front of the Basilica is an open-roofed courtyard area or atrium. The ornate façade displays carvings representing the martyrs who were killed during the civil war, with five arches leading to the main area. The marbled black and white floor of the atrium was inspired by the floor of the Capitolium in Rome. Once inside, the church glitters with silver, gold and mosaics. Hanging candles line the walls creating an atmosphere of warmth and welcome. On the central pillars of the nave, sculptures of prophets such as Ezekial, Jeremiah, Isiah and Daniel are carved in wood. A stunning stained glass window catches my eye.
Pilgrims line-up to climb a set of elaborate stairs to view the Virgin of Montserrat, or the Black Madonna, the reason many come to Montserrat. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while paying homage to the Black Madonna. But Victor explains that from inside the Basilica, from the floor of the chapel, I am allowed to take pictures. The famous sculpture sits at the back of the church, above the altar area, framed in an ornate window. Even at a distance, it is fantastic and leaves me awestruck.
A highlight of a visit to Montserrat monastery is to listen to the famous Basilica Youth Choir perform Gregorian chants and other religious choral music. The performances can be heard free of charge at one o’clock inside the Basilica most days. I would advise getting there early as the doors close once the chapel is full.
Montserrat means Saw Mountain, as the range looks like the serrated edge of a saw, and is the name of the Mountains and the sanctuary. It is perfect for walkers with many hiking trails available. A place to enjoy nature and contemplate life as you experience magnificent views of the unusual rock formations. A funicular takes visitors to the top of the mountain, where there are several different walks to choose from, all with amazing views of the Catalonian countryside.
There is also a fabulous art museum onsite. It is not very big but holds some impressive pieces of art and artifacts donated by private citizens, including a painting done by Picasso done at 14-years-old. The Monks consider it their duty to promote culture. It is definitely worth an hour of my time.
There is a small market outside where I stop at a stall and purchase a jar of honey, made by the monks. I leave feeling refreshed and at peace, satisfied I can tick off another place on that long list.
If You Go:
Montserrat is 53.4 km from Barcelona and can be reached by car via the A-2 or C-58 motorway. Be prepared to navigate a very twisty mountain road once in the mountains.
Montserrat is about one hour North West from Barcelona by train. Tickets should be bought ahead of time.
There are many organized bus tours from Barcelona and Tarragona.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants, and one hotel if you plan to stay overnight.
Unless you plan to do many hikes, a one day trip is sufficient to see everything.
Montserrat — History and Culture
Montserrat, known as the Caribbean’s own Emerald Isle, shares much in common with Ireland. Irish influence is evident in the surnames of many residents, the island’s resemblance to Ireland’s coast and the fervour with which Montserrat celebrates St Patrick’s Day. In fact, Montserrat is the only place outside of Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday.
The Arawak and Carib were Montserrat’s first residents before Christopher Columbus discovered the island and named it after Catalonia’s Monastery of Montserrat in 1493. Many of the first European settlers were indentured Irish servants transported to the New World against their will, much like the African slaves who followed after Montserrat became an English territory in 1632.
Sugar and Sea Island cotton plantations, along with rum, formed the backbone of Montserrat’s economy for several decades. France briefly captured the island in 1782, but became a British territory under the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolutionary War. This dramatic period in island history is displayed at the Montserrat National Trust headquarters (P. O. Box 393, Olveston).
St Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday after a failed March 17, 1768 slave uprising, but the island did not abolish slavery until 1834. When Montserrat’s economy suffered after sugar prices plummeted in the 19th century, a British philanthropist named Joseph Sturge purchased his own sugar estate in 1857 to prove that hiring paid workers was more beneficial than using slave labor. The Sturges became Montserrat’s most powerful family. They started a school, began Montserrat’s commercial lime juice industry and founded the Montserrat Company Limited. After the Sturges began selling land to the local population, most of the island was owned by shareholders.
Between 1871 and 1958, Montserrat was part of the British Leeward Islands colony, becoming part of the West Indies Federation during the following four years. After Sir George Martin opened his AIR recording studio in 1979, many of the world’s top musicians flocked to the island to record their albums in Montserrat’s private and tranquil surroundings.
Hurricane Hugo, however, brought an abrupt end to Montserrat’s growth when the Category 4 storm destroyed 90 percent of the island’s buildings, including AIR Studios. Once Montserrat recovered from that natural disaster, the long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano buried Plymouth, the island’s capital, in over 39 feet of mud. The Soufrière Hills volcano also destroyed Montserrat’s airport and forced over half the population to relocate.
To this day, the southern part of Montserrat hit hardest by the Soufrière Hills volcano remains unsafe for people to live in or visit. To view the mighty volcano, you can head to Jack Boy Hill or the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (P. O. Box 318, Flemmings, Salem). The residents who chose to stay have worked hard to rebuild both their island and their tourism industry which is evident in their cheerful and welcoming hospitality.
Most of Montserrat’s population are descendants of people who arrived on the island against their will. These include not only the African slaves brought to the Caribbean, but also Irish indentured servants who first came to Montserrat during the 16th century. Irish influence remains strong in Montserrat, which has celebrated St Patrick’s Day as an official public holiday since 1768, the year a failed slave uprising broke out during Ireland’s national holiday.
Irish influence is also very much evident in Montserrat’s traditional music, especially the drumming and fife playing accompanying the standard Caribbean rhythms found elsewhere in the West Indies. Montserrat’s music contains several African influences such as shak-shak instruments made from calabash gourds. Cricket is Montserrat’s most popular sport and the British subjects are happy to welcome visitors to their casual and peaceful lifestyle.
Our Lady of Montserrat
“In the year 808, under the government of the Count of Barcelona, Geoffry le Velu, three young shepherds having one night seen a great light descend from the sky, and heard melodious music in the air, informed their relations of it. The bailiff and the Bishop of Mauresa having repaired, with all these people, to the spot which they pointed out, saw likewise the light from heaven, and after some search, they discovered the image of the Blessed Virgin, which they wanted to remove to Mauresa but, being come to the place where the monastery now stands, they could not advance any farther. This prodigy induced the Count of Barcelona to build a convent of women there, from which he took the nuns of the royal abbey of Las Puellas of Barcelon the first abbess of Our Lady of Montserrat was his daughter Richilda, who took possession of it about the year 895. This community of nuns subsisted until about the year 976, when the Count of Barcelona, Borrell, with the consent of the pope, placed Benedictine monks at Montserrat.”
The convent of Montserrat is a grand and noble edifice, situated on a platform very confined, and projecting from the mountain, which bears the name of Saint Mary’s platform enormous rocks project above it, which seem every moment ready to fall it is defended by the steep points of the mountain, as by natural fortifications, and on the accessible side by six strong towers. Besides the church of Our Lady, the fortified enclosure contains a house of entertainment for travelers, a hospital, and an infirmary.
The church of Our Lady of Montserrat his only a nave, but is nevertheless very spacious the stalls of the choir are of very remarkable workmanship. The image of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Montserrat, has a face almost black, like those of Toledo and Guadeloupe, and many others which are visited in Spain it is painted all over, and represented in an advanced age though very brown, the face is graceful: she is seated on a seat made in the form of a throne, and holds in her right hand a globe, from which springs a fleur de lis, while she supports with the other hand the Infant Jesus, seated on her lap, giving a blessing with his right hand, and holding in the other a globe, surmounted by a cross.
The inhabitants of the mountain, divided into four classes, namely, monks, hermits, choristers, and lay brothers, succeed each other uninterruptedly in their prayers. The arrangement of the places is such, that from several of the hermitages the chanting of the monastery is heard, and the sound of the bells of the different hermits, repeated by the echoes, is united in the turnings and anfractuousness of the mountains. From the summit of Montserrat, the kingdoms of Valentia and Murcia are seen, and even as far as the Belaric Isles, which forms the finest prospect in the world.
Princes and kings of Spain often climbed on foot the steep path which leads to the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, and innumerable captives came there to hang up the chains which they had worn among the Moors. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, before he devoted his life to religion, came thither to watch his arms, according to the usages and customs of that old chivalry, of which his head was then full.
After passing the night in prayer, and solemnly dedicating himself to Our Lady of Montserrat as her knight, according to the warlike ideas which he still had in his mind, and under which he conceived the things of God, says F. Bouhours, his historian, he hung up his sword on a pillar near the altar, in token of his renunciation of secular warfare then, after communicating early in the morning, he left Montserrat, intent on a different type of warfare.
*from the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the History of Devotion to her by Mathieu Orsini and The Woman in Orbit
Montserrat Monastery - History
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery located on the mountain of Montserrat, in the municipality of Monistrol de Montserrat (el Bages), at an altitude of 720 m above sea level. It is a symbol for Catalonia and has become a pilgrimage point for believers and a must-see for tourists. The current abbot is Josep Maria Soler i Canals.
The monastic complex, together with the dependencies and the annexed services, conforms a small population center that, according to the census of 2006, had 68 inhabitants.
The origin of the monastery is uncertain, but dates back to 880. It is known that, around 1011, a monk from the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll arrived at the mountain to take charge of the monastery of Santa Cecilia, so the monastery was placed under the command of Abbot Oliba, of Ripoll. Santa Cecilia did not accept this new situation and Oliba decided to found the monastery of Santa Maria in the place where there was an old hermitage of the same name. From 1082, Santa Maria became its own abbot and ceased to depend on that of Ripoll.
This hermitage had become the most important of all those on the mountain, thanks to the image of the Virgin, who had been worshiping it since 880. The monastery soon became a sanctuary, which benefited him as donations and alms allowed it to grow steadily. At the end of the 12th century, the regent abbot requested that the community of monks be extended to twelve, the minimum required for it to be considered an abbey.
The following century was the beginning of the struggle for Montserrat to gain its independence from the monastery of Ripoll. During the Schism of the West, the priory of Montserrat was faithful to the Pope of Rome, although the monastery of Ripoll supported Benedict XIII of Avignon. King Martí l’Humà advised Benedict XIII to convert Montserrat from a priory to an abbey, and to set as its first abbot Marc de Villalba, who had been in Ripoll since 1408. On March 10 of 1409, a papal bull of Benedict XIII created the abbey of Montserrat. However, Ripoll continued to have certain privileges over Montserrat. With tenacity, his first abbot obtained a bull of Pope Eugene IV, on March 11, 1431, which definitively freed Montserrat from all bondage.
In 1493, Montserrat again lost its autonomy. King Ferdinand the Catholic sent fourteen monks from Valladolid to the monastery, and Montserrat became dependent on the congregation in this Castilian city. In the following centuries, the Catalan and Castilian abbots were succeeded, as well as the non-resident commander abbots, notably Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, future Pope Julius II. In the same year 1493, a friar of the order of the lows, former hermit of Montserrat, Bernat de Boïl, accompanied Christopher Columbus on one of his trips to America, which led to the expansion of the cult of Our Lady of Montserrat on this continent.
The century XIX was especially tragic for Montserrat: was burned twice by the troops of Napoleon in January 1809, when the general Desveaux, with 800 men, came to the monastery, but pursued by subjecting the French detachment was destroyed, and as of July 25 of 1811 when they took the forces of marshal Suchet, and 1812. In 1835, he was subjected to the foreclosure following Mendizábal’s confiscation, was sacked and set afire, and many of his treasures were lost.
The exclaustration was short lived and in 1844 life was restored to the monastery. The congregation of Valladolid had disappeared, so Montserrat regained its ecclesiastical independence. From 1858, under the guidance of Abbot Muntadas, the entire building had to be restored, since there were only walls left. Since 1862, the Montserrat community has belonged to the Congregation of Subiaco (today Congregation of Subiaco – Montecassino) of the Order of San Benet, of which it is one of the main monasteries.
During the Franco regime, after a period close to the new regime, the monastery took on a Catalanist attitude, starting with the enthronement celebrations of 1947, and with Abbot Aureli M. Escarré, and became a nucleus of anti-Franco resistance..
Since then, the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat has continued to grow, and at the moment (2008) contains one of the best libraries in the country, with almost 300,000 volumes and 400 incunabula. The current congregation is composed of seventy-six monks, spread between Montserrat, the Miracle, and Cuixà. In addition, the monastery contains the children who make up the Escolania de Montserrat, considered the oldest singing school in Europe, since it was founded in the 13th century.
Among many other awards in recognition of his religious and cultural work, in 1983 he was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi, and in 1997, the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
On April 15, 2016, the monk of Montserrat Manel Nin was consecrated as Exarch of the Byzantine rite Greek Catholics.
The whole of the buildings of the monastery of Montserrat are protected as a cultural asset of local interest. Mainly, they are two blocks of buildings: on the one hand, the basilica with the monastic rooms, and on the other, the buildings designed to serve the pilgrims and visitors. Other elements that make up the complex are the chapels that surround the central complex, the hermitages, the stations of the Viacrucis and the Mysteries, the monumental statues, the monuments to illustrious Catalans and the Marian bottoms.
The basilica of Montserrat is a single nave, built in the 16th century with a still Gothic structure. The pilasters, balustrades and ornamentation, however, respond to Renaissance models. Of the old Romanesque complex, only one portal, which is now located, entering the church, is at the beginning of the right side of the cloister built in the atrium of the basilica. It is made up of five degrading archivolts, four of which rest on columns from an impost (partly restored) the last impost protects the entire portal and is partially destroyed. The iconography found in the sculptural decoration opposes the Old and New Testaments: Samson with the lions and Adam and Eve, on the one hand, and scenes of the Virgin Mary and the life of Jesus, on the other. There is also a variety of animals and monsters, and plant decoration. On the eardrum there is an image of the Virgin from a later period.
After the fire of 1808, only the nave was left, and all the decoration and works of art were lost. It was completely restored in the 19th century by Puig i Cadafalch, with a mottled ornamentation, between an eclectic and a neo-Byzantine style, with modernist elements that altered the original line of the basilica. The walls and vault were covered with paintings, stucco arches, paintings and sculptures by late 19th and early 20th century authors such as Josep Llimona and Alexandre de Riquer (author of the great paintings of the presbytery) were added. around the shrine).
There are several chapels around this single nave. The nave is supported by central columns, with wooden carvings by Josep Llimona. On the head is the main altar and the choir. Above the main altar hangs a lamp with an ivory crucifix of great artistic value is a Florentine work of the first Renaissance and arrived at the monastery in 1920, coming from Rome. It has been attributed to Lorenzo Ghiberti and a recent study has been published that attributes it to a young Michelangelo.
The headboard area, which includes the dressing room, was designed in a neo-Romanesque style with three apses the central one is profusely decorated with elements typical of 11th- century Romanesque architecture (blind arches, Lombardy bands and semicircular windows) and the 12th century (rosettes). This work was executed by Francisco de Paula del Villar, and in its creation was collaborated by Antoni Gaudí.
The facade of the basilica of Montserrat has a stone bottom carved in ashlars, with the sculptural decoration superimposed, as well as silversque facades like the one of the University of Salamanca. The bottom is horizontal and divided into three vertical stripes. On each strip a door is opened with a sculptured eardrum and the strips are separated by Corinthian columns that support an entablature. these columns are at a more advanced level than the doors, thus creating an undulating rhythm. The upper part of the facade is arranged vertically and does not occupy the full width of the facade, as in the lower part, but in the center. Here, first, are the figures of Jesus with the twelve apostles with individual canopies above it is a large rose window, flanked by columns and reliefs, and on a higher level a clock. Finally, there is a cross. The entire facade, except for the background, which can be seen on either side of the upper part, is profusely decorated with reliefs, columns of different types, entablatures, vases and pinnacles.
The façade of the monastery of Montserrat overlooks Plaça de Santa Maria, the center of the whole of Montserrat, around which the main buildings (monastery, library, gothic cloister, museum, pilgrims’ offices) are distributed. The façade contributes to the monumental nature of the complex and centers the axis of the urban space with a rectangular, horizontal body that reproduces on the first floor the three semicircular arches that at the bottom give access to the atrium. On one side stands a square tower with square windows on each floor, except at the top, where large semicircular arch openings open. The façade is complemented by three reliefs by the sculptor Rebulldepicting Saint Benedict, the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary by Pope Pius XII and Saint George.
Of the old Gothic cloister, only two wings remain, which overlook the Plaza de Santa Maria. They are formed by two floors of galleries separated by a space framed by two ledges where small rosettes were opened. The first level is made up of pointed arches supported by figured capitals and stylized columns, grouped into four beams, which rest on a broken base only to allow access to the gallery’s interior in two places, near the angle. which form the two wings. The capitals represent subjects of the profane life, as well as the shields of Montserrat and the one of the construction abbot. The second floor consists of galleries of lowered semicircular arches supported by fine columns.
Outside are distributed several squares that serve to sort the group of buildings in the steep orography of the mountain. Santa Maria Square is the main one and gives access to the monastery it is also the work of Puig i Cadafalch. From the square you can see the new facade of the monastery, built by Francesc Folguera with mountain stone. To the left you can see the remains of the old Gothic cloister.
The Abbey Oliba Square houses the buildings used to house pilgrims and tourists, with the so-called cells and a three-star hotel. The square is presided over by a bronze statue dedicated to the founder of the monastery, a 1933 work by the sculptor Manuel Xuclà.
Inside the basilica of Montserrat there are different sculptural elements, such as the tomb of Bernat de Vilamarí. It is a marble funeral monument that has, in the central body, the funeral vessel with the cover decorated with the lying figure of the deceased reclining on a pillow. It houses a semicircular arch with a bas-relief depicting the Virgin with the Infant and two angels on each side. Under the grave, separated by columns, are three female figures. Two large solid pillars flank this central body and in each are two pairs of niches that house female figures (saints with their attributes). The whole set is crowned by the figure of God flanked by two angels. All decorative and architectural elements are typical of 16th-century Renaissance sculpture.
The tomb of Don Juan de Aragon is a funeral complex made of Neapolitan marble that represents the figure of the deceased in the center of the composition, kneeling, hands together and with his knightly weapons, placed on his own grave.. This one is supported by two Atlanteans who simultaneously hold the family coat of arms. The whole set is framed by a semicircular arch that generates a short barrel vault supported by two Solomon columns with Corinthian capitals and two pillars with plant ornamentation resting on a baseboard decorated with a followed garland and angels. Between the capitals and the starting of the arc there is a frieze with cornices full of vegetal decoration. The arch generates the vault decorated with panels that mimic the marquetry, and houses the theme of the Epiphany.
Located inside the monastery church, in the room, there is the image of Our Lady of Montserrat. It is a Romanesque sculpture showing the Virgin holding the baby Jesus on her lap both are crowned. The right hand of the Virgin carries the ball and with the left holds the child, who blesses with the right hand and with the other holds the pineapple. The image is 95 centimeters high by 35 centimeters wide. It is made of polychrome wood. “La Moreneta” is one of the most well-known and revered black virgins. The staircase is accessed by a staircase richly decorated with sculptures by Enric Monjo, mosaics and paintings by Josep Obiols.. The throne of Our Lady is a remarkable piece of silverware. At the back of the throne room is the so-called circular cabin, whose vault is decorated with paintings by Joan Llimona.
The new Montserrat Organ, inaugurated in 2010, is placed beneath the transept, on the left side of the basilica, where the choirs and celebrants leave, and replaces the old 1958 organ, which continues to be located on the the back of the basilica.
Cloisters and refectory
The cloister of the monastery is the work of the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It is two stories supported by stone columns. The lower floor communicates with the garden and has a fountain in the central part. Ancient pieces, some from the 10th century, can be seen on the cloister walls. The very large garden includes the Romanesque chapel of Sant Iscle and Santa Victoria, access to the novitiate and choir buildings and various sculptures, such as the marble of the Good Shepherd by Manolo Hugué or some of the sculptures by Josep de Sant Benedict did in the eighteenth century for the bell tower of the monastery, and they never settled there.
The refectory dates from the 17th century and was renovated in 1925 by Puig i Cadafalch. The central part houses a mosaic depicting the Christ of Sant Climent de Taüll, while on the opposite side you can see a triptych with scenes from the life of Saint Benedict, painted by Josep Obiols. The monastery has an important museum divided into three sections: the prehistoric section, in which several archeological finds are exposed from the same mountain of Montserrat the museum of the Bible East, with archeological materials related to the Bible, and the art gallery, with works from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Among the paintings in the museum are works by Greco, Caravaggio, Dalí and Picasso.
The Virgin of Montserrat
According to legend, the first image of the Virgin of Montserrat was found by a shepherd boy in a cave in 880, after seeing a light on the mountain. When the bishop heard the news, he tried to move the image to Manresa, but could not do so because the statue was too heavy. The bishop interpreted it as the desire of the Virgin to remain in the place where he had been found, and ordered that the chapel of Santa Maria be built, which is the origin of the current monastery. The first historical news that has of the existence of the stature of the Virgin of Montserrat is of the year 1327, when it is mentioned in the “Red Book” of the abbey. In the 16th century, the carving passed from the old chapel to the basilica. In 1691, it was saved from the fire burning the high altar and was also protected and hidden during the French invasion in 1809. Throughout the nineteenth century, the image was displaced away from the monastery following the vicissitudes. policies of this century.
The Virgin Mary who is venerated today is a cut Romance of the twelfth century, wood of poplar. It represents the Virgin with the infant sitting on her lap and is about 95 centimeters tall. In his right hand he holds a sphere that symbolizes the universe the infant Jesus has his right hand raised in a sign of blessing, while on the left he has a pineapple. Except for the face and hands of Mary and the infant Jesus, the image is painted gold. The Virgin, on the other hand, is black, which has earned her the popular nickname Moreneta. The blackening of the carving is thought to be due to the candle smoke which for centuries has been burning on his feet as a sign of veneration. The, Pope Leo XIII officially declared Our Lady of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia. He was also granted the privilege of having his own mass and craft. Its festival is celebrated 27 of April.
The abbey of Montserrat has two bell towers, the first being the so-called “abbot’s tower”, built on the right side of the main facade of the building, a tall and very imposing tower that does not have a bell. At the rear of the facade (around the atrium) is the bell tower of Santa Caterina, with an octagonal floor plan, which has a total of twelve bells, ten for liturgical use and two for hourly use.
The harmonic set was designed by Father Gregory Mª Estrada, a total of ten tuned bells in the tone of Fa Major, eight of which were manufactured in the 50’s of the 20th century. The set was completed in 2005 with the addition of the two remaining bells offered by the Vilaseca – Roca family.
The eight minor bells are hung on the bell tower windows and are almost invisible from the outside. The two majors are in a metal structure on the same tower. The latter are the second and sixth largest in Catalonia.
Above the tower are also the hourly bells. The whole set is perfectly audible from anywhere in the venue.
Leave the car at the picnic area to the right leaving Monistrol de Montserrat, near the football field. We take the path that climbs along the margin, ignore the turning to the right and we arrive at the Camí de les Aigües (GR 5). We turn left and follow the track to the east, ignoring the detours that we will find. The first rises to the right to a water reserve, the second goes down to the left (towards Monistrol) and the third, signposted, is the shortcut to the Three Quarters (GR 96). We pass the Pla de Sant Bernat and continue to rise above the river Llobregat. We ignore a turning on the left that goes down to the Gomis Colonyand go up the stairs to the junction with the GR 96, very close to the Coll de Baranes. The path follows a water pipe and is losing its slope until it joins the Camino de la Santa Cova. We turn right and go up the wide stairs to the monastery. We go back the same way or, if we prefer, we go down with the air or the zip. In Coll de Baranes we have the option to go down the shortcut of the Three Quarts.
Paths of access to the monastery
Frequently for a few years, the accesses to the Monastery are cut off due to heavy rainfall or fire.
Wildfire near the site in 1986.
Forest fire of July 4 and 5, 1994 that affected the whole massif.
Rainfall in December 1995. They damaged the road to Cova Santa and denied the landing of Santa Maria Square.
Rainfall from June 10, 2000 in Montserrat. Cut off access roads and cable cars. Even the exterior of the Monastery was damaged. There were floods and a bridge break. In the four surrounding counties, five were killed. Old musical instruments and scores were damaged.
Rainfall from October 10, 2010 in Montserrat. Cut off one of the accesses to the Monastery.
Wet November 15, 2018. The C-58 and the road to Can Maçana in the direction of the Monastery of Montserrat also had to be cut for landslides and to the BP-1103 and the BP-1121 an alternative step was taken for the fall of rocks. The Montserrat Rack was also affected by a landslide.
All these episodes have meant that for years the Department of the Interior has developed protocols for action in the area against certain risks such as rains.
Last abbots of Montserrat
From 1858 until today, the abbots of Montserrat have been
Miquel Muntadas (1858-1885)
Josep Deàs (1885-1913)
Antoni Maria Marcet (1913-1946)
Aureli Maria Escarré (1946-1966)
Gabriel Maria Brasó i Tulla, assistant abbot (1961-1966)
Cassia Maria Just (1966-1989)
Sebastian Bardolet (1989-2000)
Josep Maria Soler (2000 -…)