A benedictine monastery dating back almost 1000 years, a unique mountain which looks almost unreal compared to the surroundings, proudly rising with its jagged rock formations, and a long time kept secret - the Black Madonna miracle statue! This is what we definitely call a must-see place while you are visiting Barcelona.
Montserrat lies about 50 km northwest of the city and it can be reached easily by one hour driving. The scenic route that takes you from Barcelona to Montserrat is along the Llobregat River at the foot of the spectacular mountain of Montserrat. Long before you reach Montserrat, you will see the jagged silhouette of the great mountain and understand how it got its name (“Serrat” means “serrated”). This massive rock fortress rises to over 1200 m high, and is dotted with trails, stairs, caves, chapels and hermitages. You will cross the park to the Sanctuary of 725m above sea level. On a clear day, you can have breathtaking views of the Pyrenees, as well as of the Mediterranean Sea.
A lot of legends and mysteries are related to this Image due to its different color and non-traditional way of representing the Mother of God. Though people say that the black color of her skin is due to candle smoke, when you see her you understand that she is permanently black. If we look back to medieval times we will find that in many Catholic countries we have paintings and statues of the Virgin with dark or black color features. (Poland, France, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, etc.) Whatever was the reason to represent intentionally Mary in black we know that she has a powerful attraction for its visitors and normally she is found and kept on highly energetic places like is considered as well Montserrat.
For the lovers of crystal clear blue water and white sandy beaches there is one more destination you can visit with the same name. If you are wondering why this Caribbean island is named after the mountain and the Monastery of Montserrat, you should look back 500 years ago. In 1493, when Christopher Columbus was sent by the Spanish Kings on his second voyage to America, a hermit from the Monastery of Montserrat went on his ship. His aim was to start spread the worship of the Virgin.
Preserved in the Basilica of Montserrat you must not miss to marvel at the figure of the Black Madonna dated back from the 12th century. It is the biggest attraction and people from all around the World come here to worship the statue of La Moreneta, considered for a miraculous. The statue sits behind a sheet of glass and represents Our Lady in a sitting position. In one hand the Madonna is holding a sphere which symbolises the Universe and allows one to touch her. The child Jesus is on her lap and holds a pod of seeds in his hand.
Listening to the Boys Choir at the beginning of the daily mass is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have while visiting Montserrat. They start at 1pm every day at the Basilica but still is good to check Montserrat website if they are not on a trip while you want to come. Founded in 13th century and considered to be the Oldest Boys Choir in Europe make the boys so famous. That's why they are often travelling around the world to participate in concerts.
Once you are in front of the Monastery there are two rack railways connecting Montserrat. If you feel more adventurous you can try one of the funicular trains. The first one is called Funicular de Sant Joan and will take you 500m higher than the level of the Monastery just in a few minutes where you can admire spectacular panoramic views. The second funicular is Santa Cova. It is made to link the sanctuary with the cave where is believed that the statue of the Black Madonna was found in 880AC.
Apart from visiting the Black Madonna, many people come here to explore the Natural Park of Montserrat which is a highlight by itself from a geographical standpoint. There are several paths close to the sanctuary which are easy to walk. One of them is The Way of the Cross at the end of which you will admire a splendid view of the rock formations, the Monastery and the land around. In good weather your sight can reach the Pyrenees, to the north, and the Mediterranean sea, to the east.