Visiting Montserrat, Spain

Our cruise came to an end and we were headed to Barcelona. Before out entire vacation came to an end, I had planned for us to spend an extra day in Barcelona. But before we were to even get there, I had other plans. I had heard about Montserrat and planned for us to take a tour before heading into the city. What is Montserrat?

Montserrat is a mountain chain near Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. It is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range. The main peaks are Sant Jeroni (1,236m/4,055ft), Montgrós (1,120m/3,674ft) and Miranda de les Agulles (903m/2,962ft). The Caribbean island of Montserrat is named after this mountain chain.

It is well-known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.

“Montserrat” literally means “jagged (serrated) mountain” in Catalan. It describes the peculiar aspect of the rock formation, which is visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock.

As you drive along toward Montserrat, you start to see the jagged image slowly rise up out of the ground. But why would I want to visit Montserrat? After visiting Monserrate in Bogotá, Colombia, I knew we had to see Montserrat. Cerro de Monserrate is one of the peaks (3160m/10,367ft) in the mountain range flanking the city of Bogotá. Monserrate has become a mecca for pilgrims, due to the statue of the Señor Caido (the Fallen Christ), dating from the 1650’s, to which many miracles have been attributed. What I was especially attracted to was La Virgen Negra (The Black Madonna). Apparently, she used to sit at the front of the church until she was replaced by the statue of the Señor Caido. Although I cannot find any documentation stating this, I was told that she was a gift from Spain to Colombia, which is why when we had a chance to see the one in Spain – I had to go. At times the rock formations looked like we had made a lunar landing.

In this image below you can see the Benedictine Abbey that is nestled in the mountains.

If you are from New England or have ever visited, you might be familiar with the Man on the Mountain in New Hampshire. I didn’t see this image until I returned home, but when I did I immediately thought of the old New Hampshire man that once was. Can you see the outline of a face in the rocks?

When our coach stopped, we were able to exit after the long climb up the mountain and the change in altitude, which resulted in our ears popping. We walked to the visitor’s center and visited the restrooms before heading toward the Abbey. Inside the visitor’s center there are a few places to buy food, but outside there is a small farmer’s market where local vendors have specialty foods such as cheese and nuts for sale. To one side you can see the cable car station (Cremallera de Montserrat) and the car on the tracks below. Apparently it goes up to the top of the mountain, but we did not climb on board and instead walked on toward the Abbey.

As you walk toward the Abbey, you pass a souvenir store and restaurant before climbing more stairs to the open area before entering. There is a museum here on the premises if you wanted to go inside. However, we were here to see the Black Madonna and we were focused on getting inside. Our tour guide said that on most days the wait to get inside to see the Black Madonna can be as long as two hours and that is the line outside before entering the building. We were fortunate that since we were traveling on a weekday and it was early, we had no wait whatsoever, but there was a line once you walked inside.

As the passageway narrowed with each step, we found ourselves climbing upstairs and toward the Black Madonna. You enter through the front and must make your way to the back of the church and up through the back to arrive in the small and confined area where the Black Madonna sits. She is behind glass, but her size does not put off the massive amount of people who visit her regularly. Her importance to so many people who visit her doesn’t go unnoticed.

Once past the Black Madonna, you walk down the other side of the church and out the back to end up in the courtyard area between the outside waiting area and inside area of the church.

Take a close look at the intricate detail work throughout this courtyard area in Montserrat:

Walking into the Abbey and sitting down, again regardless of your religious beliefs and background, you can certainly appreciate the beauty and the laborious amounts of work that so many people put into the creation of the Abbey. It may be hard to see, but if you look straight to the back of the church, past the people sitting in the pews to the very back, you might see that there are two people passing in front of the Black Madonna.

On the way outside, I snapped this picture where you can see the mountains through the window in this open area. It looks serene and peaceful in exactly the same way I felt. We stopped at the gift store on the way out where I picked up a pair of Christmas socks for my friend’s new baby and a pendant of the Black Madonna.

When we first arrived and we were walking past the cable car station, we came upon this statue. It was unanticipated, but it appealed to me since although a Roman Catholic abbey, it was not exclusionary to the idea of other religions and this buddha statue shows that to be true.

Even in Montserrat I not only see something unusual, but I take a picture of it. Yes, that is a French Bulldog wearing a little leopard jacket with a fur collar that says, “Princess.” Why shouldn’t the Frenchie be warm and stylish?

We grabbed a few drinks and some sandwiches for the ride back. Nothing tastes better than a fresh baked roll when you are hungry! Our coach drove along the backside of Montserrat toward Barcelona and we even got to see the Pyrenees in the distance because it was such a clear day.

Next time we will head into Barcelona and head out for tapas and maybe a little something to drink.

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