Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Montserrat - The Montserrat Monastery

Montserrat is a very popular tourist destination in Barcelona, even if it’s a bit further away from the city. I wanted to go there last time we were here but we didn’t have time so I packed up Paul and took him on the very first weekend.

After a slow start we took the train from Plaza Espanol that chugged happily through the Catalan countryside for an hour. This took us to Montserrat village where we boarded another train, a rack railway that took us up to the monastery.

The view from the monastery.

There is something for everybody here.  The monastery is up in the mountain at about 700m so the scenery is absolutely stunning. The building is huge with impressive architecture and even we, unreligious people found it beautiful. Some come here to hear the monastery’s boy choir. It is world famous and has recorded over a 100 CDs. (They don’t sing on Saturdays, and that is when we went.) The adventurous comes to do rock climbing and there’s also a grade 4 Via Ferrata somewhere around here. There are many easy  and short walks around the place (the longest was 2 hours long) that give excellent views over the surrounding areas. And there are the pilgrims who come to see the main ‘attraction’ of the place, the Black Madonna, the ‘Dark Lady’, ‘La Moreneta’.

I insisted on getting an audio guide (that was a mistake, by the way, no need for it) then we started our tour.  This is how it looks from outside.

This is the square in front of the Basilica.

Under five arches you can go to the Atrium, this is right in front of the church. I fell in love with the marble floor as it was depicted full of sea animals. I found this quite interesting.

This is how it looks inside. It is so very beautiful. There are masses every day that pilgrims and visitors can attend as well and hear the choir sing.

On the sides of the Basilica there are lots of hanging candles. The audio guide told me that these are representative of Catalan jewellery making and most of them have artistic value. Paul went crazy and took many photos of them.

On both sides of the Basilica there are 5 chapels each and in all of them there is a beautiful glass window.

The famous Black Madonna is at the back of the church, above the altar area. You can clearly see her as soon as you step in the building. She is often referred to as ‘the Virgin of Monsterrat’.  It is believed that she was carved in Jerusalem and one of the most famous Black Madonnas in the world. The whole monastery was built to facilitate her worship. We had to wait quite a long time to see her (quite a celebrity) but the staircases were full of beautiful things to see.

Here she is. She’s behind a sheet of glass however her hand sticks out so people can kiss it.

Looking back at the Basilica.

Behind the statue there is a little chapel. There is an awesome statue of St George and the dragon but we couldn’t take a good photo because of the light in the chapel. The whole place is full of red roses (it’s for St. George, will talk about this soon) and is very beautiful.

At the end of our visit we lit a candle for Alma and added it to the other colourful rows of candles.

If you want to visit Barcelona and have time, I would urge you to go and see the monastery or/and the mountain. The monastery can be done in half a day but if you want to do the walks as well, you need to give it a whole day, really. Here’s a website that offers comprehensive information about Montserrat. It tells you everything that is available on the audio guide, too.

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