MONASTERY AND LITURGICAL SONGS, WITH UNIQUE MOUNTAINS IN THE BACKGROUND
It was during a tour of a few weeks in Spain that I plan to visit the Monastery of Montserrat. Therefore I spend an afternoon there after leaving Barcelona.
The Legend of Montserrat
In the year 880, a Saturday afternoon approaching dusk, the shepherds saw descend from heaven a powerful light accompanied by a beautiful melody. The following Saturday, the vision was repeated. The next four Saturdays, the rector of Olesa accompanied them and could see the miraculous vision.
After learning about the event, the bishop who was at Manresa organized a climb to Montserrat in which was discovered a cave where there was an image of the Virgin. The bishop then proposed to transfer it to Manresa, but when they tried to take it, it was so heavy that they couldn’t make it move. The man of the Church interpreted this as the will of the Madonna to stay in this place and decided to build a chapel on the site.
Since this legend, Montserrat is considered a hotbed of Catholicism both Spanish and Catalan, as it is well celebrated on April 27th.
The current monastic community consist of twenty monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, whose main objective is to keep the Montserrat as a place of prayer and contemplation. The monks also ensure the smooth running of the hotel and the reception of pilgrims, in addition to research and publishing activities.
You can get to the abbey by road from Monistrol of Montserrat, San Salvador de Guardiola and Bruc. It can also be accessed from Monistrol by cable car or cog railway. Once in the monastery, you can reach the holy cave and San Juan by two cable cars, but watch out for the tourists! There were so many people there at the time of my visit that I could not see everything. Several hiking trails are accessible and allow the traveler to admire to other remains, including many ancient shrines or monuments scattered in the surrounding mountains.
I start my visit once arrived via the cog railway. By walking around in this monastic complex, I visit the tourist office, a few souvenir stalls, and then I reach on the square of Abat Oliba, located near the main hotel of the area.
This place is a garden crossed by a stream that provides the framework for a bronze statue of the founder of the monastery, the abbot Oliba. This piece of work was created in 1992 by sculptor Manuel Cusachs who has also created a set of sculptures in the monumental Rosary of Montserrat. The left hand of the abbot holds the plans of the early Montserrat church while the right welcomes visitors, according to the Benedictine tradition. Then I head to the Basilica, located up the hills.
In front of the Basilica is Santa Maria square. It includes a statue of St. George from 1986 by sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, as well as a three-level plaza built in 1929 and designed by the Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. The statue is made in such a way that its eyes seems to look at you whatever your position may be.
At the end of the plaza stands the facade of the monastery, begun in 1942 and completed in 1968 by the architect Francesc Folguera. The facade ends the square and leads to the Basilica. It is topped by three large arches decorated with reliefs illustrating St. Benedict, the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Pope Pius XII and Saint George, patron of Catalonia, with a tribute to monks who died during the Spanish Civil War, all made by sculptor Joan Rebull Torroja.
The facade of the monastery is pierced with arches which lead to the square in front of the basilica. Under the arches stands a sculpture of Domènec Fita which represent St. Benedic.
The square itself, in black and white marble, is decorated since 1956 with sgraffito after designs by Josep Obiols. Finally, here we are inside the basilica. There is quite a lot of people, because of the Escolanía of Montserrat, a chorus of young Catalan boys, is about to sing. Awaiting the start, I’m painfully moving around the basilica to take some pictures.
At the end of the nave, above the monk choir, a niche designed by Francesc de Paula del Villar is arranged to receive, on a silver throne, the Virgin of Montserrat, to which pilgrims and visitors can access by stairs. There is often a lot of people here, especially in high season, waiting patiently to be able to approach the Virgin. The altar is made of an eight-ton block of stone and is based on a slab of the ancient altar of the basilica. Above, an imposing canopy is suspended on which is hung a gold cross with an ivory Christ attributed to Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The children of Escolanía finally enter the church and sing for the next 10 minutes, short but beautiful!
Once this is over, I get out quickly before the crowd and decided to walk on one of many hiking paths around for an hour or two before getting back to the monastery and then, back to Barcelona.
Montserrat is truly an exceptional site. The shape of the mountains themselves is remarkable and the panoramic views are magnificent! Add to this corner of nature Montserrat monastery and you will get a real postcard scenery. Its position in the hills strengthens its spiritual focus and the mountains act as true guardians of this unusual place.