Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat is Catalan for "serrated mountain" and it is about 48 km (~30 miles) northwest of Barcelona.  It is the most important religious site in Catalonia.  It's an easy train ride from the city and then a cable car ride up to the top.

The Benedictine monastery was founded in 1025.  The grand basilica was constructed in 1592.  Although the monastery is home to one of the oldest, still running printing presses in the world and one of the oldest European schools for boy singers, neither are reasons why people come here.  It's to see the Virgin of Montserrat.

The Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary, holding baby Jesus and an orb.  There is a protective glass case around Mary but you can touch the orb.  The statue is one of the black Madonnas of Europe.  It was originally lighter but over the centuries it has become dark from either all of the candle smoke, the humidity or simply because the original varnish has darkened with age.  Pilgrims have been coming to see the statue since the 12th century.

Many people believe that the wooden statue was carved by St. Luke in 50 AD and brought to Spain.  It was supposedly hidden in a cave and rediscovered in 880 AD.  According to historians it was actually carved in the 12th century.

The monks could not move the statue to build the monastery so it was built around it which is why the statue is located at the rear of the chapel.  Right outside is where I was able to light a candle for my grandmother.

A visit to Montserrat makes for a nice ½ day trip.  Here's another Rick Steves video I found on YouTube to fill in any details I missed.
©Rick Steves

1 comment:

  1. I just read "Homage to Catalonia" for my book club. I can't say that it was one of Orwell's best. Just keeping all of the strains of anarchists, communists, and fascists straight was a job in itself while reading the book. I'm still at a loss at what anarchists actually believe. Seems like a good thing that those days are long gone in Catalonia.