Tucked close to the sublime Llobregat River just 31 miles away from the northwest of Barcelona, Montserrat is an iconic landmark for nature lovers and religious believers of the Catholic faith. It is one of the enigmatic regions in Spain that has garnered lots of attention. From the mystical myths to the ambitious visit of Himmler (the Reichführer SS), this place beckons curious minds to explore its historical and cultural legacy.
The first thing to notice about this mysterious attraction is its unique topography, think massive, elongated structures, which were formed by tectonic and isostatic movements. And then there is the wild flora, which exudes a rustic and authentic atmosphere. But what makes this region special is the fact that it is swathed in myth and legends, especially its association with the holy grail. Read on to find out why history buffs want to visit Montserrat located near Barcelona.
Basilica and the Montserrat Abbey
One of the reasons to visit Montserrat is hands down its glorious Gothic-style basilica, which dates to the 16th century. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the Peninsular War, and consequently, it was rebuilt in 1811. Thanks to its facelift in 1901, history buffs can still admire the intricate architectural designs of the basilica consisting of a gorgeous facade carved by the Spanish sculptors- Venanci and Agapit Vallmitjana. Expect to find beautiful sculptures of religious figures such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isiah.
Its open-roofed courtyard is another impressive section decked out with five arches that lead to the main area. Notice each of its interior designs that give glimpses of Montserrat's history. For instance, the St Benedict sculpture at the entrance of the Benedictine Abbey shows his importance in the lives of the monks who stay there.
It is believed that the monks followed strict rules and vowed to live in complete isolation on top of the mountain. Moreover, Napoleonic troops and Himmler who was a leading member of the Nazi Party of Germany came to this place to find the Holy Grail which was thought to be hidden in the wall of the Abbey.
- Opening Hours: 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
The Black Virgin Of Montserrat
Touted as the Black Madonna or La Moreneta, the Black Virgin of Montserrat is the patron saint of Catalonia, and is revered for her miracles. Legend has it that a small group of shepherds discovered the wooden statue through a bright shining light. Today, many religious believers pray for her mystical healing power, which is why there is always a long queue at the back of the Montserrat basilica. From the gorgeous stained-glass to the Venetian mosaics, each little part of this particular area is adorned lavishly. The Virgin is also accompanied by the beautiful sculpture of angels created by Marti Llaurado. There are many symbols such as the nine silver lamps, which represent the eight dioceses of Catalunya and Montserrat. There is also the sphere held by the Virgin, which symbolizes the universe.
- Location: Situated in the Basilica of Montserrat
- Access: Free
- Opening Hours: 8:00 am - 10:30 am; 12:00 pm - 6:25 pm
Museum of Montserrat
A tour of Montserrat is incomplete without visiting its main museum located beneath the monastery. The museum currently hosts six permanent collections of artifacts from the Biblical Middle Eastern region (Mesopotamia, Cyprus, and Egypt), and Catalan paintings by famous artists such as Dali, Monet, and Picasso. The museum acquired some impressive collections from private donations, but back then it was Father Bonaventura Ubach who brought some artifacts from the Middle East during his voyage.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 am - 4:45 pm (Monday to Friday); 10:00 am to 5:45 pm (Weekend)
- Ticket Price: $8.40 (Adults)
Santa Cecilia de Montserrat
Santa Cecilia is another historical feature of Montserrat, whereby Oliba, Abbot of Ripoll, and Bishop of Vic ordered a group of monks to settle on the top of the Montserrat mountain in the Santa Cecilia monastery. Today visitors can marvel at the restored ancient structures located right at 675 meters high, at the foot of the wall of St. Jerome, which is the highest peak of Montserrat (1,235 meters). Those who enjoy architectural history will be able to feast their eyes on the finest Romanesque architecture that has been restored from the 11th and 20th centuries.
Visitors will also get the chance to see the creative works of renowned artist Sean Scully through the frescoes, and stained-glass paintings at the monastery. This place is a perfect blend of history, avant-garde art, religion, and breathtaking sights of the natural surroundings which you can’t miss when visiting Montserrat.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm; 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm (It opens only on weekends in July, September, and daily in August)
- Ticket Price: $7.36 (Adults)
How to get to Montserrat, Spain
- By Train: Take the R5 Manresa line to get off at Monistrol de Montserrat train station. From there, visitors can opt for the funicular train located at the same station, or take the cable car from the Montserrat-Aeri stop.
- By Car: When leaving Barcelona take the A-2 towards Lleida leading to the attraction. There is a car parking area available but at an extra cost. Visitors can always park next to the Monistrol station.
- Getting up to the monastery: Via cable car (within 5 minutes), or funicular (within 15 minutes).