This is the Black Madonna. She’s the big attraction here. According to legend, the Black Madonna was discovered in the year 880 by some shepherds who had seen a strange light and heard music coming from a cave in the mountain. From then on the statue has remained on Montserrat Mountain and become one of the most famous pilgrimage sights in Spain. We waited in line for over an hour just to walk past.
In 1025, Oliba, Abbot of Ripoll and Bishop of Vic, founded a new monastery at the hermitage of Santa Maria de Montserrat. The little monastery soon began to receive pilgrims and visitors who contributed to the spread of stories of miracles and wonders performed by the Virgin.
Between French wars, world wars and civil war the monastery has suffered from destruction and abandonment numerous times over the centuries but continues to bounce back. Most notably, the Spanish Civil War saw the violent suppression of the Abbey of Montserrat. Of the 278 priests and 583 religious men and women killed in Catalonia by Republican forces, 22 were monks of the Abbey of Montserrat.
During the rule of Francisco Franco, the Abbey of Montserrat was seen as a sanctuary for scholars, artists, politicians and students. Franco’s men were often waiting for wanted people a few miles down the road.
Today, Montserrat’s modernization appears to be complete.
Everyone takes their picture in front of the Basillica with hands raised. I’m not sure what that’s about.
Situated atop the craggy pinnacle of Montserrat Mountain, the sheer scale and splendor of the place is jaw dropping. There are funiculars to the various peaks and hiking trails linking it all together.
Monistrol de Montserrat
We stayed in the village of Monistrol de Montserrat and took the train up from there. Of course, the more adventurous can spend the day hiking up the mountain in true pilgrim style.
The streets in Monistrol are so narrow that people have to scurry into doorways to let vehicles pass.