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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