One of the must – sees of going to Spain is the monastery of Monserrat. It is located just a short train ride from Barcelona so it’s considered a day trip. It’s worth while going as early in the day as possible so that you have the option of taking the hikes, having lunch, spending time in the Basilica listening to the choir perform, and explore the area without rushing.
According to Wikipedia, “The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia’s favourite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica. Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain, is 48 kilometres (approx 30 miles) west of Barcelona, and can be reached by road, train or cable car.
At 1236 metres (4055 ft) above the valley floor, Montserrat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, and stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia. The stone monolith is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia.
The Basilica houses a museum with works of art by many prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso and more. Montserrat’s highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by a footpath from the top station of the funicular Sant Jeroni. From Sant Joan, almost all of Catalonia can be seen, and on a clear day the island of Mallorca is visible.”
You have to decide before you leave Barcelona whether you want to make your way up the mountain by train or cable car. We chose the cable car and the view was spectacular but if you have any issues with heights I would suggest you take the train.
Once you get to the mid-way point, which is where the Basilica and tourist services are you can can take another “funicular” which is a lot like another cable car except that is is not suspended above anything but rather attached to rails. This will take you to the top of the mountain where you can walk around and look out onto the most amazing scenery.
I , as well as most other tourists, took many pictures because everywhere you looked there was something interesting to photograph. I kept thinking “what a great painting this would make” and snap, snap, snap went my camera.
In spite of the number of people on the mountain it did not feel crowded at all. There were periods of time when I was totally alone looking onto the scenery and enjoying the stillness. When I am at places like this I have to admit I feel very small and insignificant. Whatever your feeling or opinion about God you would have to be dead not to feel the power and majesty of these surroundings. You can’t help but think about how insignificant we are in the universe.
I love Georgian chants and the music and sound of medieval choirs. There had to easily be 1000 people in the Basilica when the choir sang. In spite of this you could hear nothing but the angelic voices of the singers. It was hard not to be moved by their spiritual presence. I bought a CD of organ melodies from the gift shop which is on my cd player right now. I often do this – it’s a wonderful way to remember a trip or experience.
Bottom line, if you go to Spain, make time to see this beautiful, spiritual place.