Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A pilgrimage to Montserrat

Up to the mountain top

Cataluña’s eternal ruler resides on a high mountain in a Golden Chamber and she holds the National orb in her right hand. She is the Mysterious Black Madonna of Montserrat. She is believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church, but she is most likely a Romanesque sculpture made in wood during late 12th century.

We decided, Monday June 25th to have our own pilgrimage to pay homage to this mysterious woman, and we did not know who or what to encounter. The pilgrimage was a mysterious experience, like the one so many pilgrims have had through the 1200 years she has resided there.

We had planned this trip before we left Oslo. The ones I know that have embarked on this pilgrimage, strongly recommended it. When we returned, we were filled with memories from this beautiful mountain, and I would love to go back.

This is not a trip for the fainthearted. The monks that settled at the mountain of Montserrat 1200 years ago were determined to isolate themselves from the world around. That meant that they built their Monastery far up on the steep mountain, only accessible by a narrow path. Today there are both a Cable Car that will take you right up and a train that snails itself up the 2100 ft to the Monastery.

How to get to Montserrat

When you land in Barcelona, you may get a glimpse of Montserrat itself, as it is much higher than the hilltops surrounding the Catalan capital. It is situated an hours time away by train.

It is rather easy to get there. Take Subway line 1, 3 or 5 to the the Subway station Espanya. From there you take Regional train line 5 to Montserrat - Manresa. It leaves each hour from 8.36 AM to 5.36 PM, and arrives Montserrat an hour later.

If you are up for a really nerve wrecking experience you can leave one station before Montserrat and take a Gondola lift up to the top. Here you can see what you are missing.

You can pay for all activities at Espanya. The price vary from a little over €10 round trip per person for the ride up to the mountain up to €30 if you want to visit the museums and take the funicular to the summit of Montserrat, St. Jerome 4055 ft (1236 metres) over

Alternatively you can drive up to Monistrol Vila - a station on the train line up to the mountain, leave your car for free and take the train up. In fact you can drive up, but the road up......

La Cremaillera - 2000 ft up, by train!!

As you leave line 5, a small green train awaits your arrival. It leaves from Montserrat every hour from 9.38 AM to 6.38 PM. As it leaves the station you look up the steep mountain side and wonder - is this little train going to take us up there. I have to say that I was a little
nervous as the train turned into a cable train/ funicular and started to snail its way up the mountain.

It was an awesome experience to see the little train drive up to the Monastery at Montserrat.

And this is the view you get when you come up.

As you are on the highest mountain in the area you can look all way to the coast, in fact from the summit of Montserrat, they say you can look out to Mallorca on clear days. Isn't that something.

The Monastery

The Monastery goes back to the year 880 as some local kids saw a bright light descend over the mountain and heard angels sing heavenly songs. From that time it was a sight of pilgrimage. The Benedictine order built a monastery here, that became the home of the revered Black Madonna.

From that point the monastery has grown into religious and even political centre. It was a free haven for Catalan art an language during times of oppression.

The buildings standing here today dates back to the early 19th century, when Napoleons armies attacked and destroyed the old buildings. Still you feel the traditions and spirituality of the old monastery are still present here.

Tomorrow I will share the pilgrims progress, all into the Holy of the Holiest, to the golden chamber of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

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