A train can take you directly from Barcelona to Montserrat some 40 km away - the last stretch up has to be made either by cable car or rack-and-pinion from below in the valley. Waiting for the cable car, you are dwarfed and impressed by the mountains looming over you right across the valley. The magnitude of the place is underlined when the yellow cable car comes down, and you can measure the size of the cliffs. You appreciate how difficult it must have been to reach the monastery in old times, and how well protected it was. A comfortable ride up takes you to the plaza of Montserrat.
The Montserrat monastery holds a sacred statue of a black Madonna, or Moreneta, in the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, supposedly made in 50 CE by St. Luke. I directly headed to the monastery, and after looking at the monastery I took a side entrance and walked up the stairs to reach the small statue. This is probably the holiest place of Catalonia, people queue to touch the statue and pray for a miracle. Newly weds are especially inclined to come here, and incidentally, Montserrat is a popular name for girls in Catalonia. The statue resides above the altar of the basilica, and behind it, you can also go to a small chapel with beautiful stained glass windows.
Montserrat is special for its location high up in the steep mountains, and apart from doing real climbing on the cliffs, it is possible to do many different hikes. I took a funicular further up the mountains at Sant Joan, and after enjoying the view off the top of the massif, I walked down the mountain, passing several small and isolated monasteries, until a gravel path took me to the chapel of Santa Cova. Santa Cova is built like a bird's nest against the vertical cliffs, and was the place where the statue of the Moreneta was hid for centuries. Certainly not an easy place to reach! From here, returning to Montserrat meant climbing the path, after which the cable car took me back to the bed of the valley.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Montserrat (Spain). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Montserrat. Read more about this site.