Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Montserrat (the original, not the island)

View looking up from Montserrat.  We
could see mountain climbers up there.

Okay...I will openly show my stupidity.  Until we visited Madrid and watched a series of places to visit in Spain which was shown on the hotel television, I did not know there was a place called Montserrat in Spain.  I knew only the Caribbean island of Montserrat which is a protected territory of the UK.  We have visited the island of Montserrat 3 times; twice on Windjammer tall ships when it was thriving in the early-to-mid 1980s and once on BeBe in May 2006 after the volcano eruption and relocation of most of the inhabitants.

Here is a link to the blog posting about that last visit:

Sign at church entry at Montserrat

The images on TV of Montserrat, Spain, were breathtaking!  We had to go see it.  Visiting family members also were keen to see Montserrat and a day trip from Barcelona was planned.  Transportation to Montserrat from Barcelona is extremely easy -- it is via the Metro subway train departing from the Plaça d'Espanya station.  The Barcelonetta Metro station is only a block or so from Marina Port Vell but we had not yet figured out the Metro subway lines, so we piled into 2 taxis to the  Plaça d'Espanya station.  Yep; we paid about 20 Euro for taxis rather than the much less expensive subway (or bus).  As it was, still we arrived only about 10 minutes before the scheduled departure to Montserrat.  

Statues at Plaça d'Espanya
Looking toward Magic Fountains
and the National Palace of Catalonia
Plaça d'Espanya

Lynn and kids in the subway station.
Elisabeth pretended to be a hippie for this day.
Lynn and Aaron had visited the  Plaça d'Espanya Metro station and purchased tickets for everyone the previous day.  We opted for the ToT Montserrat tickets at 46.20 Euro rather than the basic ticket for 29.30 Euro.  The Tot tickets included Metro there and back, the Cremallera funicular up to Montserrat and back down, entrance to the museum, the audio visual presentation, and a surprisingly nice 3-course lunch with beverage at the cafeteria. The tickets also included the almost vertical funicular from Montserrat monastery level up to St. Joan, but we did not learn that until it was too late in the day to do it.  That thing looked unbelievably steep!  

The ultra-steep funicular going up from
Montserrat to Saint Joan.
Not sure I would have gone up there even if we had known it was included in our tickets.  

I think these ToT tickets also included 2 Metro rides within Barcelona (to get to the  Plaça d'Espanya station) but none of us ever figured that out.  We instead blew 40 Euros on taxis there and back to the marina.  There are trains basically every hour to and from between Barcelona and Montserrat and tickets are good anytime, so one can spend as much or as little time on this excursion as desired.  It is a good excursion to get away for a break from the summer heat in Barcelona and go the the higher elevations of the mountains.

Photo taken from funicular when about half-way up.  Look to the right from the 'V' in the mountain top
and there is the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat.

View down from the funicular train station

And it is beautiful!

Absolutely gorgeous up there!

The scenery alone is worth the trip.

Look at very top of that mountain peak.  There is a
large building up there.  How do they get to it?
Photo taken from courtyard of the monastery.

We visited the Plaça d'Santa Maria.  

And the monastery.   

Including the church.

The very old and mysterious black
Madonna and Christ.

We saw the statue of the black Madonna and Christ in its special place inside the back area of the church.  I took a photo because I saw no signs stating that this was not allowed and others also took photos.  Later, Elisabeth said she had seen a sign prohibiting photos somewhere along the staircases as we approached this special statue.  I missed that sign and I was looking for one.  

Elisabeth and Bill walking up final flight
of steps to view the black Madonna statue

According to the audio-visual presentation, this statue was found around 880 A.D. inside a cave a bit farther down the mountain called Santa Cova.  Some children playing in the area returned to the village claiming that they had found this statue.  No one believed them but the children insisted, so finally some adults went down to check it out.  When they and the local priest entered the cave a bright light shown down inside the cave leading them to the statue.  

One of several small alcoves in church

No one knows where this statue came from.  Supposedly it was made during the 6th century and some speculate that it was hidden inside this cave high in these mountains to protect it from the Muslim Moors.  The Moors invaded and occupied Spain in 711 A.D. so this speculation does fit the timeline.  But that is only speculation. 

Beautiful area inside church where hallways intersected

Other websites claim that this statue was found in the 12th century; so it is anyone's guess where the truth lies.  All that can be known for certain is that the origination of this statue and how it came to be hidden inside a cave in the mountains of Spain remains a mystery. Miracles have been attributed to this statue since the 12th century by religious pilgrims.

The Baptistery

The other thing that Montserrat is famous for is the boys choir.  They can be enjoyed in this video showing Montserrat from aerial views (well worth a look!  I encourage readers to click on this link):

Outside entry to church.  No idea who is
buried here.  It was beautiful.
Watching baby Rose while patiently
waiting for the rest of our group.

Paper rose petals on marble floor exiting church.
From a wedding that day.  We watched the bride and
groom depart.  Made me wonder how involved it must
be to arrange a wedding in this location.

Rather than write a lot about Monserrat, here are a couple of links that provide almost anything anyone might want to know about this Benedictine Monastery.

Looking up from monastery courtyard.

I enjoyed the beauty of this area so much that it would be easy to tempt me to make another trip out there before we depart Barcelona in a few weeks.  It was a cloudy day during our visit and I would like to see the vistas on a  bright sunny day.  As we were waiting for the funicular to arrive to deliver us down the mountainside to the train back to Barcelona, the skies finally opened and poured.  Could not see much on that ride down because of the rain. 

Looking out to mountains from outside monastery

Fortuitously, the rain stopped before we exited the funicular coach and it remained dry as we waited 8 minutes for the train back to Barcelona.  After we boarded the train, the rain began pouring again.  Lucky us to be able to remain dry!

Wooden statue.  Virgin Mary?
Or a light version of Darth Vadar?

Lynn took the 3 kids to see the Magic Fountains around 10 that night.  Bill, Aaron and I were tired and chose to sleep or read instead; but she and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the show of fountains and lights and music.  It is one of the highlights of a visit to Barcelona.

Check it out here:

And just so some of us present that day can remember how 'fun' family vacations with small children can be, here is a photo of baby Rose's reaction when her mother walked away to retrieve the stroller from where it had to be left while we went inside the church.
Heartbroken.  Mom walked away for 3 seconds.


  1. got me interested....just might have to add this to our sightseeing of Barcelona and surrounding area before we depart. so you can get your second chance to visit by showing us the way!


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