The Benedictine monastery stands on Mount Montserrat, a unique natural setting. Its origins can be traced back to the late 19th century when a small chapel was built near the place where, according to legend, a group of shepherds found an image of Our Lady of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia since 1881. The image that is worshipped today, known as the Moreneta, or Black Madonna, due to the dark colour of her skin, is a Romanesque-style carving dating from the 12th century.
The new monastery was founded in 1025 by the bishop of Vic, Abbot Oliba. The building was destroyed by the French troops during the Peninsular War (1811-1812) and wasn't rebuilt until the middle of the 19th century, following the arrival of a new community and with the involvement of the great Catalan art nouveau, or modernista, architects who continued to expand the Benedictine monastery. At the present time, it has a community of some sixty monks devoted to prayer, work and hosting pilgrims and is one of the key stages on the Ignatian Way and the Way of Saint James.
Its heritage treasures include the Holy Grotto, the Santa Cova (a place of worship where the patron saint first appeared), the basilica (with the image of the Black Madonna) and others solely used by the Benedictine order, like the cloisters and library. The latter is one of the most important in Catalonia and has a collection of more than 300,000 volumes. It also has its own publishing company. The monastery is also home to the Escolania, one of the oldest boys' choirs in Europe, that you can hear when mass is being held inside the basilica.
The museum, the Museu de Montserrat, is one of the most complete art galleries in Spain, showcasing works by Caravaggio, El Greco, Degas, Monet, Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, Picasso and Dalí, as well as an architectural collection with pieces from Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Delve into the history of Montserrat through the variety of visits on offer: morning, afternoon, full day, balloon ride, on horseback, food, and other options.
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat and the Way to the Holy Grotto have been listed as Assets of Local Cultural Interest (BCIL) by the Catalan government since 2001.
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