Monestir de Montserrat – Home of La Moreneta or the Black Madonna:
One of Catalonia’s holiest place is the Monestir de Montserrat (Monastery of Montserrat). Located against the beautiful backdrop of Mont Serrat, (Serrated Mountain) the Montserrat Basilica houses the Black Madonna or La Moreneta, the patron saint of Catalonia.
About the Monestir
Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery whose history goes back all the way to the 11th century when Abbot Oliba founded a small monastery next to the Chapel of Santa Maria. The site gradually grew in importance and by the 14th century, Montserrat’s fame had spread all over Europe. During the French War of Independence the monastery was attacked by Napoleon’s troops and many of the monks were killed. After the violence and suppression of the Spanish Civil War, the monks returned again to Montserrat in 1844 and a program of reconstruction began.
Today Montserrat is a place of pilgrimage and many young people from Barcelona make overnight hikes up to the Monastery (1,234 metres high) at least once in their lives.
Visiting the Black Madonna
There are many things to see and do in Montserrat, but many come here especially to visit the Royal Basilica and to see the Black Madonna or La Moreneta. Our Lady of Montserrat is located in the Niche above the altar of the Basilica. The wooden statue is not big, only about a metre tall, and is protected behind glass casing. Many pilgrims come to Montserrat to venerate the Black Madonna and to touch her wooden orb which protrudes through a small cutout in the glass. If you are planning on doing this, be warned that the queue can be quite long.
Visiting the Black Madonna has its challenges – during our visit, our guide advised that it would take about 45 minutes to reach the Madonna. We joined the queue when we noticed that the line had shortened but our hope of seeing the Black Madonna was dashed when a Basilica official appeared and announced that visiting time was over! We were there within visiting hours and no reason was given, causing extreme upset amongst a German group that had been waiting a long time.
We were very lucky though. One of the tour guides showed us a way in for a quick view and we got to see La Moreneta.
Other Things to Do at Montserrat
- Montserrat is home to the Escolania Boys’ Choir, one of the oldest in Europe. If you are lucky, you may be able to hear them singing at religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the Basilica.
- Join the monks at communal prayers
- The Museo de Montserrat has about 1,300 pieces of artwork by Monet, Sisley, Degas, Pissarro as well as works by many of the greatest contemporary artists such as Chagall, Braque, Le Corbusier, Rouault, Miró, Dalí and Picasso.
- Montserrat is a nature park and there are many interesting walks that you can do in the area.
Places to Stay at Montserrat
If you’re planning on staying in Montserrat the most conveniently located accommodation are the Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat and the Abat Marcet Apartments (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) as these are right by the Monastery. For other hotels in the vicinity of Montserrat see HERE.
Things to Buy at Montserrat
At the Monestir de Montserrat there is a gift shop where you can buy postcards and other souvenirs bearing the image of the Madonna. More interesting are the roadside market stalls selling local honey, curds, cheese and a specialty fig loaf. I bought a small round for Euro 3.00 and it was delicious.
How to Get to Montserrat
Map of Montserrat: