Montserrat & the black madonna (Barcelona)

FROM The man in the front seat / March 31, 2014

Located north-west of Barcelona is the incredible Montserrat (serrated mountain), a 1236m (4055ft) mountain, a truly unique rock formation that for centuries has shaped by wind, rain and frost. Situated at 725m (2390ft) is the spectacular Abadia de Monserrat (Abbey of Monserrat), the most important shrine in Catalunya with nearly all Catalans making the journey there at least once in their lives . The natural beauty of the area is breathtaking, accessed by an incredible journey up the mountain to where on a clear day you can see as far as Barcelona , the Pyrenees and if your luck is in the island of Mallorca.


An Abbey was first mentioned in the 9th century, enlarged in the 11th and in 1409 became independent of Rome and able to control its own affairs. The French destroyed the buildings in 1811 and killed the monks during the Wars of Independence but by 1844 it had been repopulated and rebuilt. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) the Monastery was ruthlessly suppressed with 22 monks being executed, from that moment onwards it became a beacon for Catalan culture and nationalism and was frequently visited by artists, scholars, politicians and students.

On the 27th April 1947 more than 100,000 people Gathered to celebrate the enthronement of the Virgin of Montserrat with a mass that was spoken in Catalan, a language illegal at the time.

Today the Abbey houses many famous works including El Greco, Dali and Picasso and has more than 100 monks living there

Virgin of Montserrat

Is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ and is one of a series of Black Madonna’s in Europe, hence why the Catalan name is la Moreneta (the little black one). The dark colour is attributed to centuries of exposure to candle smoke, or as some say a chemical reaction caused by the varnish which is used as paint sealant. Although many believe it was carved by St. Luke in Jerusalem in the early years of the church and brought here by St. Peter around 50AD, it more probably originates from the late 12th century.

The figure outdates the Monastery it is located in with some saying it arrived in 718 when it was placed there in the Santa Cova (Holy Cave) to escape the Moors who were invading Spain at that time.

In September 11,1881 Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat to be the Patroness of Catalunya.

The choir Escolania de Montserrat every day sing a hymm called ‘Virolai’ which begins with the words “Rosa d’abril, Morena de la serra…” (April rose, dusky lady of the mountain chain…) and as a consequence the statue is sometime referred to as Rosa d’abril (April Rose).

A must visit for any visitor to Catalunya, not just for the significance of the buildings located there but for the incredible views from the serrated mountain.


A guided visit to Montserrat is available on;

BAR0004. Montserrat & the Black Madonna

Montserrat & the black madonna (Barcelona)
Montserrat. Abbey of Montserrat
Montserrat. Montserrat - ariel view
Monserrat. The Black Madonna
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