The Basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat – Benedictine Abbey is spectacularly situated, between the peaks of Montserrat.
The history of Montserrat goes back to 880, when a group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. Those days it was one of the most important religious sites in Spain, the place of a Catholic cult ranked alongside Zaragoza and Santiago de Compostela.
Thousands of pilgrims and tourists flock here every day to touch the medieval statue of the Black Virgin, the patroness saint of Catalonia.
Some are seeking spiritual rewards, others some magnificent views of the most unusual rock formations in all of Catalonia.
I’m not a very religious person but I do take a big interest in religion in general. I’m always eager to explore the sacred sights of other religions therefore I have promised myself to stop skipping the Catholic ones, although years of indoctrination have made me very rebellious and church allergic.
This monk retreat was a perfect place, beside the Basilica it has the Museum of Montserrat, which holds some works by Monet, Picasso and Dali.
Do not expect to find any famous painting here, those are always in Paris and New York, but do appreciate this little break from all of this Catholic delirium that is omnipresent in the air.
La Moreneta is site’s main attraction. The small Romanesque statue of the seated Virgin with the Child Jesus on her lap is made of wood.
In English it is called ‘black’, the Spanish call her ‘Moreneta’ which means ‘tanning’. Originally the statue was much lighter but it tanned over the centuries from smoke, humidity and the darkening of varnish with age.
While there has been a church standing here since the 11th century, the Basilica is relatively new, the current version was built in the 19th century in the popular Neo – Romanesque style.
The most notable attraction beside the Black Virgin is Escolania – one of the oldest and most renowned boys choirs in Europe.
Every day at one in the afternoon you can admire them singing the ’Salve Regina’ and the ‘Virolai’ (the hymn of Montserrat) in the Basilica.
My favourite sights of the Montserrat were actually Santa Cova and Sant Joan. I love its awe-inspiring vistas and unique panoramas.
Santa Cova (the Holy Grotto) is where La Moreneta was originally located, now the cave holds a replica. The hike was breathtaking. No, no! I wasn’t short on breath but totally overwhelmed by the views.
Another great place is Sant Joan, You can use a funicular or walk up and then follow further up to the Sant Joan Chapel, which is a great starting point for all serious hikes in the area.
Montserrat is a place of extreme natural beauty and as the name suggests this mountain is truly serrated.