"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on June 25, 2016 by Sioux under General


On day 3, I did a full day trip up to the Montserrat Monastery. An hour from Barcelona by bus and then a trip up some very steep mountain sides on the lenticular train. I walked across the mountain paths from the monastery to the cross on the opposite mountain side and also up to a chapel high on the mountainside.


A long steep walk that left my legs

somewhat weary. I found out afterwards

that my Dad took 2 days to cycle the

same route from Barcelona to

Monserrat during his 2nd Camino ride.



The mountain Montserrat has been of religious significance since pre-Christian time, the first written mention of the monastery being in 880 AD. Hermit monks had built various hermitages on the Montserrat and the monastery was founded in 1025. It is not known exactly when Monks first came to Montserrat and began to build a Monastery.

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Mountaintop chapel 

In 1811, the monastery was largely destroyed by Napoleonic troops

but the Benedictine monastery was rebuilt. In 1409 the monastery of

Montserrat became an independent abbey. At the time of the Franco

dictatorship the monastery put up resistance. Despite the ban,

Catalan was still spoken with many hundreds of persecutees of the

Franco regime went into hiding there. More than 20 monks were executed as a result.

This resistance makes the monastery an important symbol of Catalan self-evidence and the fight

against oppression. Monserrat was originally a monastery for males only. Across the mountain a cloister was built for the nuns. 

It is believed that in the ninth century four of the Chapels were built on

Montserrat Mountain (St Mary’s, St. Iscle’s, St.Peter’s and St. Martin’s).

It is believed that these were inhabited by hermit Monks who lived a solitary life of prayer. Today St.Iscle is the only one of these Chapels is still standing, albeit in ruins, however it is not open to tourists. The chapel ruins can just be seen behind the trees in the image on the right; and to the left of the trees in the image on the left.

In 1223 is the first account of a boy’s choir at Montserrat. The choir and now a school are still in operation today. In 1409 the Monastery became an independent abbey and in 1490 Montserrat’s printing press was installed. The Montserrat Music School has also produced important composers. Today, Montserrat has been modernised to continue attending to the needs to pilgrims one thousand years after it was originally founded. 

Our Lady of Montserrat or the Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the monastery. She is the Patron Saint of Catalonia, an honour she shares with Saint George.

She is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta (“the little dark-skinned one” or “the little dark one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church, it is more likely a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century. Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. By another account, the image of the Madonna was moved to Montserrat in 718, to avoid the danger posed by invading Saracens. The statue’s sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage for many thousands of people every day.

Walking around the grounds of the monastery, it was hard to believe that there were probably over 2,000 people there. I could hear the birds; the breeze through the trees; the gentle tones of hushed voices broken only by the occasional burst of laughter. I could have walked all day but for the time limits and the steepness of the pathways. 

Once on the mountain facing the monastery, the views were magnificent. It felt like I could see forever!

A quick, but interesting time in Barcelona, with a definite return visit to be planned at some stage …… and then it was time to pack, I was leaving for Paris the next day!

There are statues and

monuments of all shapes

and sizes dotted around the

gardens,some in plain sight,

others hidden amongst the

shrubbery. All beautifully

kept, as were the gardens.

The stunning view looking past the Cross of St Michael (left) down over the valley floor of Catalonia and Barcelona on the far right. 


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4 responses to “Mountaintop monastery”

  1. Paul says:

    From my visit to Spain many years ago, the stained glass in the church’s, monasteries and cathederal’s still takes my breath away.

  2. Chris Viljoen says:

    Wow! Stunning pics Sioux!

  3. Ursula Evans says:


  4. Derrick Baney says:

    Looks good Girl – you keep this up and i’m getting extremely jealous of you

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