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Barcelona's Black Madonna | Shrine & history

The Black Madonna of Montserrat sits high above the congregation, her hand outstretched as she rests on an ornate throne adorned with Venetian mosaics. Below her, pilgrims wait in a long queue that stretches down the stairs, into the Basilica Santa Maria de Montserrat, and out the door. Inside the basilica, shadows dance amidst the flickering candles and golden adornments, while the voices of the renowned boys’ choir fill the spacious air.

Getting to the monastery is an adventure in itself. As the train approaches Montserrat, the jagged peaks of the mountain range loom closer, resembling teeth against the sky. Then, the monastery appears, seemingly perched impossibly high among the rugged stones. How was anything ever built in such a place? If you're curious about the monastery and the Black Madonna, here's all you need to know.

Where is the Black Madonna?

The Black Madonna is found at the back of the Montserrat basilica, overlooking the altar. When you enter the atrium of the Basilica, look for a doorway on the right. Go through this doorway and join the queue to see the Black Madonna.

The Ave Maria Path (Cami de l'Ave Maria) at Montserrat After you've seen the Black Madonna, you'll exit through the Cami de l'Ave Maria. This area is quite emotional, where you can pay respects to the statue you just saw. Each candle there represents a prayer to the Virgin Mary. You'll see a whole wall of candles, evidence of all the people who have come to ask for their prayers to be heard.

How to see the Black Madonna on a Day trip from Barcelona?

Day trips

There are many day trips from Barcelona to Montserrat available, including ones that combine the visit with wine tasting or a hike in the surrounding mountains. These tours include transportation, entrance fees, and sometimes even guides. Choose a day trip that includes everything in the morning tour, plus an exclusive tour of the Sacristy, a tasting of liqueurs made by the monks of Montserrat, and more free time to explore.

Here are some options:

How else to get to Montserrat from Barcelona


Hike: There's a hiking trail called the GR-6 that connects Barcelona with Montserrat. It's about 57km / 35.5 miles long and takes around 15 hours to complete. This hike is part of both the Camino de Santiago and the Saint Ignatius route.

By Bus: There's only one public bus heading to Montserrat every morning at 9:15 from the Bus Station of Sants Estacio. It then returns to Barcelona in the late afternoon, around 5 PM or 6 PM depending on the season.

By Car

There are two main roads that lead to Montserrat and both take about the same amount of time, roughly 1 hour. One is the C-58, which goes through the Valles county and joins the C-55 to Monistrol de Montserrat at the foot of the mountain, then on to the Monastery. The other is the A2, which follows the Llobregat river. When you reach Abrera, you can take the local road BV1201 to reach the monastery from the Monistrol side, or continue along the mountain to El Bruch and take the B111.

By Train

The R5 is a suburban line that starts from Plaça Espanya and has two stops in Montserrat. The first stop is the Aeri de Montserrat, where you switch to a cable car that takes you to the monastery. The next stop is Monistrol de Montserrat, where you switch to the rack train going up the mountain to the monastery. If you're planning to take the train, consider getting a pass – it's a great deal!

By Taxi

It's a bit unusual to go to Montserrat from Barcelona by taxi, but it can be an option if you miss the last bus or train. You'll likely make the driver's day because they'll make good money. At the Information Point of Montserrat, you'll find a list of taxi phone numbers that can pick you up at the monastery and take you back to the city.

Frequently asked questions about Black Madonna

Do I have to pay to see the Black Madonna?

If you're on a day trip or a guided tour and you have access to the Basilica (check your ticket), you won't need to pay extra to see the Black Madonna. While visiting the Black Madonna is free, but there are donation boxes at the bottom and top of the stairs leading to her. If you'd like to donate to the Monastery, be sure to bring change when you visit the Madonna.

What are the waiting times?

Since the Black Madonna is a popular attraction at Montserrat and the room it's in is small, you'll probably have to wait in line to see her. How long you'll wait depends on when you visit—weekday or weekend, time of day, and time of year. During busy times, expect to wait from 20 to 45 minutes to see the Black Madonna.

Can I light my own candle at the Montserrat monastery?

If you want to light your own candle for the Virgin Mary, you can buy one from the cages in the Basilica's atrium. They operate on trust—you choose the size of the candle you want and put the right change in the metal box provided (make sure you have exact change, unless you want to make a donation).

What's the proper etiquette for visiting the Black Madonna?

As a place of worship, dressing modestly is recommended (covered shoulders and knees). Since you'll be in close quarters with others in the queue, be mindful of personal space.

I'm worried about crowds, is there a specific time to visit the Black Madonna to avoid long lines?

While Montserrat can get busy any day, weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends, particularly Saturdays. If you're flexible, aim for a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning. Early mornings (around the basilica opening time) or later afternoons (after 4 pm) can also be less crowded. Bonus Tip: Consider attending a daily mass (around 1 pm) at the basilica. While you won't be right up close to the statue, you can still experience the beauty and serenity of the space, and the queue for the Black Madonna afterwards might be shorter.

I'm short on time, can I still visit the Black Madonna and have another Montserrat experience?

Absolutely! While seeing the Black Madonna is a highlight, Montserrat offers much more. Take the funicular railway up the mountain for breathtaking views, explore the Montserrat Monastery, or visit the museum showcasing the history and art of the region. You can even hike some of the scenic trails surrounding the monastery. If you're particularly interested in the Black Madonna's history, the museum has a special section dedicated to her and other Black Madonna statues, offering a deeper understanding of this unique Marian tradition.

I'm traveling with young children - is the Black Madonna visit suitable for them?

While the Black Madonna statue itself might not hold their attention for long, the overall Montserrat experience can be enjoyable for children. The funicular ride and spectacular mountain views are exciting. The monastery has a courtyard where children can run around, and there's even a small audiovisual exhibition about the history of Montserrat that might capture their interest.

I'm concerned about touching the Black Madonna or being too close - is there a respectful way to approach the statue?

This is a popular tradition. One of the Virgin Mary's hands is accessible for a respectful touch or kiss.

I'm not very mobile. Is it easy to access the Black Madonna shrine?

Accessibility can be a concern for some visitors. Reaching the shrine involves climbing a flight of stairs. Unfortunately, elevators or ramps are not available. You can still view her from a distance at the bottom of the stairs via Cami de l'Ave Maria path.