The Montserrat Monastery in the Mountains of Catalonia
Montserrat, the jagged-sawed mountain, a labyrinth of shapely boulders in the air, geologically formed by an agglomeration of fantastic pinnacles and spires, emerged from the depth of a vast lake in ages past. It deeply impressed those who were fortunate to behold it. Located about 40 kilometers from Barcelona and almost in the heart of Catalonia, it has become the symbol of a faith and of a people. It is also a centre of excursion and pilgrimage.
The history of the monastery goes back to the 11th century, when Oliba, Abbot of Rippol and Bishop of Vic, decided to install a community of monks in the Hermitage of Santa Maria, one of those already existing in the mountains, in the 9th century. In no time, pilgrims began flocking to the new monastery, returning with tales of the wonders wrought there though the intercession of the Mother of God. The increasing number of devotees led the Benedictine monks first to enlarge the existing chapel, and later to replace it by a larger Romanesque church (12th century), the portal of which can be seen on the right side of the present church cloisters. The existing basilica was constructed in the 16th century. Similarly new buildings had to be erected to house the ever-increasing number of monks and pilgrims. A museum presents here paintings by Dali, El Greco and Picasso.
The Benedictine Community, living through periods of growth, decline and even suppression, forged its own distinctive personality. Composed, at present, of twenty monks, it aspires to live the Christian faith to the fullest extent, following the Rule of Saint-Benedict (6th century), in a family setting and in a spirit of generosity in order to be of service to their fellowmen through prayer, intellectual and manual labour, pastoral action and hospitality. The monks assemble three times a day in the abbey church for liturgical functions in which the faithful participate. Thus the monastery has evolved into a centre of assemblage, reflexion and dialogue, on the Christian and human level, and open to all. It has always been closely united with the vicissitudes of the Catalonia's People, who, in turn, have considered the monastery, their own.
The image of Our Lady of Montserrat, with the Holy Child on her lap, is a polychromatic Romanesque wood carving of around the turn of the 12th century. The image, often called the Moreneta or Black Madonna by the faithful because of the dark colour of her face and hands, has been a concrete and visible symbol of a Christian presence and a magnet which has drawn to Her, generations of men, in a spirit of prayer and conversion. Pope Leon XIII, giving in to insistent popular demand, proclaimed her Patroness of Catalonia in 1881.
Monastery of Montserrat, Spain.
Façade and portal of the Monastery of Monserrat, Spain.
Our Lady of Monserrat.
The Escolania, school for the boys' choir, inside the basilica.
The Monastery of Montserrat.