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Montserrat Monastery

Fascinating Facts of Montserrat Monastery

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Montserrat Monastery aerial view
Montserrat Monastery

Montserrat Monastery photo from

Montserrat Monastery
Montserrat Monastery
Montserrat Monastery
Montserrat Monastery

When most people think of Barcelona, they envision the bustling streets of Las Ramblas or the breathtaking architecture of Antoni Gaudí.  However, nestled high in the jagged peaks of the Montserrat mountain range, just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the bustling streets of Barcelona, lies the awe-inspiring Montserrat Monastery. This spiritual sanctuary has captivated the hearts of visitors for centuries with its breathtaking beauty, rich history, and profound significance. We opted to take a tour from Barcelona.  These are some of the fascinating facts about Montserrat Monastery which you should consider visiting when you visit Barcelona.

A Sacred Mountain

Montserrat translates to "serrated mountain" in Catalan, and when you catch your first glimpse of this range, you'll understand why. The peaks of Montserrat appear jagged and almost otherworldly, making it a truly remarkable sight. The mountain range has long been a place of spiritual significance and is often associated with religious and mystical experiences.

A Monastery Above the Clouds

The Montserrat Monastery is perched at an elevation of approximately 720 meters (2,362 feet) above sea level. This monastery dates back to the 11th century.  This lofty location not only offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape but also creates a sense of spirituality and tranquility that is truly unparalleled.

View of Cross of St. Michael from the Monastery

Cross of St. Michael far ahead on top of the mountain top

Cross of St. Michael

Cross of St. Michael photo from

Cross of St. Michael in the mountain afar

Cross of St. Michael on top of the mountain

View of the Montserrat Monastery from Cross of St. Michael

View from Cross of St. Michael photo from

St. Michael’s Cross (Creu de Sant Miquel)

When visiting the Montserrat Monastery, if you have enough time, you can take a 15-20 minute walk (one-way) to St. Michael’s Cross from the abbey (not the bottom of the mountain).  It is said to have a stunning view in Montserrat.  Unfortunately, we did not have time with our tour to take the hike.  We were informed that the walk is on a wide gravel path and hiking boots are not needed.  Comfortable walking shoes would suffice.

Black Madonna
Black Madonna
Black Madonna

To view la Moreneta, one has to go up some stairs from her left to her right so you can see her up close.

View of church from the Black Madonna's altar
Black Madonna
Black Madonna

View of the church from La Moreneta's altar

The Black Madonna and her Legend

The Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of Catalonia.  One of the most iconic features of Montserrat Monastery is the revered statue of La Moreneta (the little dark one), or the Black Madonna. The statue is about 95cm (3.1 feet) tall and represents the Madonna with a child sitting on her lap.  Legend has it that the statue was found in a cave by shepherds in the year 888, guided by fireballs that came out of the cave.  They found the Madonna inside so they decided to transfer her to the city of Manresa.  As they tried to transfer the statue, the figure began to weigh more and more. They understood then that the Madonna wanted to stay in the place where the monastery is located today.  Many miracles have been associated to la Moreneta and her fame has grown throughout Europe.  The Black Madonna has since become a symbol of Catalan identity and a significant pilgrimage site.  She is carved of poplar wood in an ornate Byzantine style.  Some say the statue is carved from black wood, or perhaps has soot on her skin from the smoke of thousands of candles.  Today, she sits behind a sheet of glass, however, one of her hands, the one holding a sphere that symbolizes the universe is not behind the glass.  Tradition is that you kiss or touch the virgin’s hand whist opening out your other hand to Jesus.

The Holy “Grail” Mythology

For thousands of years, Montsettat has been a sacred destination for locals and pilgrims.  Before the time of Christ, a Roman temple to Venus was on the mountain.  Whether the Holy Grail legend is true, one can only speculate.  Jesus Christ was said to have used the Grail to consecrate the Last Supper.  Arthurian legend states that the Holy Grail is tucked away at the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat since it is believed that the exact location of the sacred chalice is near the Pyrenees, on the mountain called Mont-Salvat.  Many people believed that Mont-Salvat was Montserrat which motivated adventurers to seek the precious treasure.  The Nazis were one of those that sought to seek the Grail.  It is said that Himmler, the Reichführer SS, visited Barcelona and looked for the Holy Grail in Montserrat in 1940.  He believed that if he could lay claim to the Holy Grail, it would help Germany win the war and give him supernatural powers.  However, they were not able to seize the Holy Chalice.

Montserrat's Limestone Formations

The Montserrat mountain range is known for its distinctive limestone formations, which have been eroded over millions of years into unique shapes, including towers, needles, and caves. These natural wonders surround the monastery, creating a mystical and enchanting atmosphere.

Architectural Beauty

The Montserrat Monastery itself is a work of architectural wonder. Its construction spans several centuries and features a blend of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. The basilica, with its grand façade and exquisite interior, is a testament to the architectural prowess of its builders.

Chapel of the Most Holy One
The Chapel of the Most Holy One
The Chapel of the Most Holy One

Chapels in the Basilica

All around the edge of the basilica you will see chapels.  The chapel of St. Scholastica contains sculptures by Enric Claraso and Agapit Vallmitjana.  The Chapel of the Most Holy One contains a large stained glass window which window separates the chapel from the nave.  Another chapel contains a painting by Josep Cusachs of the exodus to Egypt.  The Chapel of the Holy Christ contains the image of Christ on the cross that was created by Josep Llimona.  This one was the most interesting in that the face of Christ appeared to look at you wherever you move in the room.

Montserrat Monastery church with lamps on both sides
Offer Lamps at Montserrat Monastery

Interesting Lamps

Inside the church, there is a collection of interesting metal lamps.  These are all offers to the church to pay homage to this sacred place.  These offers have been made by different people and Catalan Organizations.  For example, one of the offer lamps was left by the football club FC Barcelona.

The Montserrat Museum

The Montserrat Museum is a treasure trove of art and history, featuring an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Visitors can admire works by renowned artists such as El Greco, Caravaggio, and Picasso.

Montserrat Rack Railway

photo from

The Montserrat Rack Railway

To reach the monastery from the base of the mountain, visitors can take the Montserrat Rack Railway. This unique mode of transportation offers stunning vistas along the way, providing a memorable journey before you even arrive at the sanctuary.

Pilgrimages and Festivals

Throughout the year, Montserrat Monastery hosts various religious festivals and pilgrimages. One of the most notable is the Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, celebrated on April 27th, drawing thousands of pilgrims who come to pay homage to the Black Madonna. The atmosphere during these festivities is both joyful and spiritually uplifting.


Montserrat Monastery stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of faith, art, and culture in Catalonia. Its unique blend of natural beauty, religious significance, and historical importance makes it a must-visit destination for travelers exploring Barcelona. Whether you seek spiritual solace, artistic inspiration, or simply an escape into nature, Montserrat Monastery is sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.

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