The Black Madonna
I knew nothing about the Black Madonna or Montserrat, but I am always up for exploring someplace new and these sacred mountains near Barcelona definitely deserved a visit. Just look at how interesting the rock formations are! I couldn’t wait to see what was at the top.
There was more up there than I expected. The oldest boys’ choir school, L’Escolania, for one. The choir sings every day in the Basilica of Montserrat. They are sometimes joined by the Chapel choir and monks. Unfortunately, I missed that.
There was a fantastic farmer’s market where I bought the most delicious rosemary Manchego cheese. (I wish I’d bought a suitcase full!) A museum, funicular, cafe, and gift shop round out the extra attractions atop the mountain.
But the main attraction was the revered Black Madonna inside the very somber and very impressive cathedral.
You’ll probably have to wait in line to see the Black Madonna. People from all over make a pilgrimage to Montserrat to see her. She holds a special place in the hearts of the Catalan people. She is often called the Virgin of Montserrat and was declared the patroness of Catalonia by Pope Leo XIII in 1844.
She wasn’t always black. The statue is wooden and is believed to have been carved in Jerusalem. She was figured prominently in the Basilica which meant that candles were often burning near her so that she was illuminated. The smoke eventually darkened the wood, turning her face black.
The statue is now protected by glass with one small exception: one of her hands is free. She is holding a sphere (representing the universe) that visitors traditionally touch as they pass.
On leaving the altar of the Black Madonna, you pass walls of candles lit in prayer. I always stop to light a candle in memory of my stepfather and father-in-law. I like to think they’re there with me in spirit, enjoying these beautiful places in the world.
Have you visited a holy place like this?
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Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I like holding that thought, too.
This brings back such fond memories of visiting Montserrat: the gondola ride up, the comforting silence, the grand view, and of course seeing the Black Madonna. I too found the rock formations fascinating!
I missed taking the funicular ride, but I’m sure it would have enhanced the day even more.
I’m going to Spain in September and the friend I’m going with suggested Montserrat as a day trip. This definitely looks like it’s worth visiting, the photos look amazing!
Definitely a great day trip!
These mountains looks otherworldly. I didn’t know they were so close to Barcelona! I just love this area of Spain/Catalonia, though. Last time I was in Barcelona I thought it had become just so overwhelmingly crowded and touristy… so if I go back I will have to do a trip like you did out of the city!
I love Barcelona and hate I didn’t get to do either of these activities while I was there last summer. Just means I need to go back, right? I would definitely wait in line to see the Black Madonna. Your photo of her is beautiful! Interesting that she got her name from the smoke of so many candles! And you’re right about needing a suitcase full of Manchego cheese. That stuff is good!
A suitcase full of Manchego cheese sounds like the start of a bad travel story. Of course, I say this as I am getting ready to visit Heini’s Cheese Factory in Holmes County and thinking about how to bring home my own suitcase of cheese. I love how the globe is half in / half out of the glass. It creates a really cool effect.
I love Heini’s!!!!!! Met the owner there and loaded up on cheese. My top choice there is their feta.
Cheese seems to be a bigger feature in my life than I realized…
I’ve heard about this place but never the Madonna. Would love to see this spectacular interior and actually touch her hand. So into the Madonna energy.
Elaine, you’d love it.
I’m so jealous of the rosemary Manchego cheese you bought — that sounds so good right now. 🙂 I’ve always wanted to visit Montserrat, but didn’t know what to expect. It’s fascinating that the Black Madonna wasn’t always black and that it was due to smoke. Makes sense how that happened over time though!
I need more cheese!!!! If you ever go, don’t be stupid like I was and only bring yourself one wheel. I should have filled an entire suitcase just for myself!!
I didn’t get to explore much of outside Barcelona last time when we were in Spain. Montserrat seems like a great day trip to take! The dark interior is quite unique. It is also very interesting to learn about the Black Madonna.
The history of the black madonna was really interesting. It’s amazing that she’s survived the years.
I love your picture of the dark cathedral with the sunbeam of light crossing the nave. It really captures the majesty of the space. I’d never heard of Montserrat, but it’s now a place I’d love to visit. I find the site in the white mountains interesting — would be great to try to visit in time to hear the choir.
Hearing the choir would be spectacular. They have a nice gift shop there, too, where you can buy the CDs.
I’ve only ever been to Barcelona in Spain. I think Montserrat definitely deserves a visit on my next trip there. I love the dark interior – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church like that. And the mountains are beautiful!
I agree. The church interior was dark and somber, and yet so peaceful. Montserrat is not far from Barcelona at all. I highly recommend a half-day or day trip there.
I was in Barcelona this past Jan/Feb and several people I was working with were headed here. I will be heading back to Barcelona in Jan/Feb 2019 and want to make sure that I make time for this little side trip as it looks delightful!
DEFINITELY a great side trip from Barcelona. I hope you go,
The story of how she turned black is so fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I’m jealous because in spite of visiting Barcelona two or three times, I’ve never been able to make it out to Montserrat!
I hope you remedy that!