Montserrat means 'serrated mountain', and it does indeed look like it was carved out by a divine hand. This sacred mountain is home to Montserrat Monastery, the second most visited pilgrimage center, after Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. With a history dating back to 880, when a statue of the Virgin was found in a cave, Montserrat stands as a culturally, religiously and historically defining part of Spain.
As Montserrat is the namesake of Montserrat Monastery, here is a closer look at the history of this iconic and sacred destination.
According to legend, in 880, a group of shepherds saw blinding light coming out of a cave and heavenly music playing all around. When they approached the cave, they found a statue of the Virgin Mary. A small chapel was established there in the late 9th century, known as Santa Cova, situated a short hike away from Montserrat Monastery today. Soon, word of the healing powers and blessings of the Virgin spread and pilgrims were pouring in.
In 1025, Abbott Oliva of Ripoll decided to found a monastery, close to the cave where the patron saint first appeared. Thanks to the venerated statue of the Virgin, the monastery steadily became more popular and powerful. It is said that friar from Montserrat Monastery travelled with Christopher Columbus and that is how this Caribbean island came to be known as Montserrat.
In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and the monks flee from Montserrat Monastery, taking whatever valuables they could. The French army set fire to the monastery and tried to take over Montserrat, but failed to do so the first time, making Montserrat one of the only three places the French couldn't capture by 1811. However, they attacked again and the monastery was looted and set ablaze again.
In 1844, the monks came back to the monastery and the restoration of the monastery is slowly underway. The Escolania choir that was dismissed during Napoleon's invasion was regrouped and the monastery's recovery became a symbol of Catalan patriotism. Renowned artists and architects set to work on the monastery including Puig i Cadafalch, Francesc de Paula i Villar and a young Antoni Gaudi. In 1881, the Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin the patron saint of Catalonia.
Montserrat holds historical significance as a sacred site dating back to the 7th century. It witnessed many important events, everything from the appearance of the Virgin Lady to being attacked by Napoleon's troops.
The construction of Montserrat Monastery began in the 11th century, making it over a thousand years old. It has undergone various renovations and additions over the centuries, showcasing a mix of architectural styles.
Montserrat Monastery was created after the sighting of the patron saint of Catalonia, the Virgin Mary, in a cave on Montserrat mountains.
Montserrat Monastery has been a focal point of spiritual and religious activity in Catalonia. It houses the revered Black Madonna and has been a site of pilgrimage. The monastery's architecture and art collection also enrich Montserrat's cultural and historical relevance.
Yes, there are guided tours available at Montserrat Monastery. These tours offer in-depth insights into its history, architectural style, and cultural relevance.