The history of Montserrat Monastery is fascinating and started in 880. A small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the mountains. The same moment, the children heard angels singing in the sky. The music filled their hearts with radiant joy.
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.
The Black Madonna in the Basilica Montserrat Monastery
Visiting the Black Madonna at the Montserrat Monastery is a spiritual and worthwhile experience. You will join in line with a group of people, many of whom have come as pilgrims to the statue – the atmosphere is electric. Chances are you will have to wait to see the Madonna. This can serve to enhance your visit – make the most of the opportunity to take in your surroundings. The stairway leading to the statue and altar in which the statue sits are ornate. They pay tribute to the wonder that is the Virgin herself. The statue sits behind a sheet of glass. One of her hands that is holding a sphere (which symbolizes the universe) is not behind the glass. It is a tradition for you to kiss or touch the Virgin’s hand whilst opening out your other hand to Jesus.
The History of the Black Madonna
The whole of Montserrat Monastery revolves around the worship of the Black Madonna in the Basilica. The Black Madonna, people believe that the Madonnas creation was in Jerusalem. It is one of the most famous Black Madonna statues in the world. In 1844 Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia. Black Madonna all can be located in churches all over the world. The history of the concept of the Black Madonna and its various depictions is not known. It is worth a visit to the Montserrat Museum where there is a whole section dedicated to its art and history.
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As you enter the doorway to the Basilica you will pass the chapels that lead to the Virgin. The chapels commemorate Saint Peter, St Ignatius of Loyola, and St Joseph Calasantius.
In 1944 it moved to a new room, known as the ‘throne room’ construction began with a stairway leading to the statue. The work of sculptors, architects, artists, and jewelers was included in the project. The architect Francesc Folguera and the painter Josep Obiols created the statue room.
The new building work had been scheduled for completion on 27 April 1947 – a day to that would be the Enthronement. The work was finally finished in 1954.
The Virgin and Child
As you enter the room where the Virgin sits, it is worth noting the doors. Their composition is repousse silver. The makers were Joseph Obiols, Rafel Solanic, and Manuel Capdevila. The Black Madonna herself sits on an ornate throne which involves Venetian mosaics. At either side of the Virgin, you will spot eight silver lamps. These represent the eight dioceses of Catalunya and Montserrat. Above the Virgin’s head, there are Angels created by the sculptor Marti Llaurado.
Leaving the altar of the Black Madonna, at the bottom of the stairs, you can take the opportunity to pray. in the chapel of the Image of the Mother of God. This chapel built in 1885 was under the direction of Francesc de Paula del Villar I, Lozano Antoni Gaudi.
Later Gaudi was the creator of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. That church to this day is still under construction long after his death but in line with his exact visions.
Our Trip and The Other Sites
Now that you know little about the history of the Montserrat Monastery here is how to get there. The following is a little about the trip there and what you will be able to see and do other than visiting the basilica.
There are actually two stops Montserrat and Montserrat Aeri. Each has its own form of transportation going up the mountain to the monastery. We would recommend Aeri adventure. It is a gondola ride via cables up the mountain which is 1236 meters or 4055 feet up. This is not the highest point but we will discuss that further when we talk about the funicular trains.
There are several f things to do once you arrive at the site. Visit the basilica and the Madonna and cathedral which is exquisite. You can also have lunch in their cafeteria and visiting the museums. After you have made your way around these sights there are two funicular trains that you can travel on.
The first is the Santa Cova train which will take you down to the holy grotto. This is where the children first saw the light that led to the building of the monastery. The other, San Joan will take you to the highest point of the mountain where you will have a view of all of Catalonia.
We found this to be the high point of this visit to Barcelona. Should we ever return to Barcelona it is a trip I would take a second time. For anyone visiting Catalonia, this should be a number one priority.
Details and Cost
The train that goes to Montserrat leaves from the Placa Espanya station. It can be a little difficult to spot. The train station as underground and entrance is not marked well. , When the taxi driver pointed toward a large building, we figured it was the train depot.
Two cab rides later, one over to the main train station and one right back to where the first cab dropped us off. We kept trying to tell the driver that we wanted the station that would take us to Monserrat.
He pointed to this little booth that had a large MONTSERRAT sign above it. We paid, thanked him and got out once again. When we got around to the other side of the booth … it was a very small elevator. Needless to say, the entire station is underground. There is not station proper above ground.
Finding the Right Station
The entry is a very small elevator on the corner of the Placa Espanya boulevard. You can spot it from the pictures of Montserrat Monastery on it.
Once you locate the “secret elevator” entrance that goes down to the station, follow the signs. Look for the ones that say the R5 line. When you arrive at the turnstiles, there are very helpful ticket agents. They will explain the various ticket combinations and options. They have a good command of every major language and you will have not problems here.
Once you decide on your ticket options they will help you buy the tickets. They will use the automated ticket vending machine and steer you toward your train. You will catch the next train out and be able to stay as long as you want, using your return ticket for any train. You do not have a set time you have to return, but the last train coming back is around 7:30 pm.
Our advice on ticket options is to buy a ticket called the ‘Tot’ which covers everything in Montserrat. You will get a cafeteria meal and a visit to the museum. You also ride on both the Santa Cova and the San Joan funicular trains. All for 1 price — if you have the Tot ticket, you will not need to open your wallet again. The cost, including round-trip train fare, is 46 Euros per person. The only other cost you will have with the Tot ticket is any souvenirs you might buy.
Summing Up the Montserrat Monastery Visit
We hope you have the opportunity to see this wonderful place. It has so much to offer with the trip through the countryside. You get to see the panoramic views and sites traveling up the mountain. Most importantly is the visit to the Madonna, the awe-inspiring basilica, and the cathedral.
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