Montserrat has become part of the culture and the Catalan identity and goes far beyond religion, is our spiritual place for peace of mind. I have heard many stories of self-discovery and even illumination in the mountain, I am not a believer and I won't tell you what to believe in but believe or not, if there is one thing I am certain is that it is a special place for different reasons.
The Monastery of Montserrat has in it one of the most famous choirs in Catalonia and one of the most ancient boys choir in Europe called l'Escolania de Montserrat. The choir participates in the religious celebrations that are done in the basilica. All the "escolans, the members of the choir, receive high musical education along with human and intellectual too and the name and quality of the institution is well known. They do concerts around the world during the year and they have produced differents cds.
Montserrat is a complex, there is the mountain, the monastery and Montserrat's chruch too. The church is famous to be a Gothic one following the traditional Catalan architecture. During XIX century it was damaged but at the end of the century it was rebuilt, it is important to mention that there are sculptures of prophets inside the church that were carved by Josep Llimona and are in the church since 1896.
La Moreneta or the Mare de Déu de Montserrat
La Moreneta, literally the blacky, is how we call the Virgin of Montserrat, our black Madonna is a figure made of wood from XII century, its black color comes from the varnish used and the years that have passed. The Montserratina is one of the most famous Black Madonna statues in the world, the other well known one is the one located in Chestokova.
Montserrat Virgin has on its lap baby Jesus, and she holds the baby and with her right hand the globe that represents the cosmos, the creation and the perfect volume.
The legend says that there were some peasants in Montserrat around the year 880, it was a saturday and they saw a big light coming down from the sky along with a beautiful melody. The next saturday they decided to go to the same place but this time with their parents and in the next for saturdays the dean from Olesa came along as well, and the vision repeat itself every saturday. On 27th April we celebrate Montserrat's festivity, the Sain Patron in Catalonia.
The Moreneta is behind a glass at the end of a stairway abnd in the altar where it is to pay tribute, what is touchable is her sphere that symbolizes the universe and you can touch it or kiss it as many do.
There is a Museum, called Montserrat museum where they have a selection of art pieces and explain the story of the monastery, if you have enough time I would recommend you to visit it.
If you want to avoid queues when visiting the Black Madonna, it is best to go in the afternoon as most of organized tours visit Montserrat in the morning and also the boy's choir sings every day at 13:00h so you can imagine the amount of people that gathers around that time in the church. At 13:00h is the perfect timing to see the Madonna as everyone is listening to the choir or in the afternoon.
Montserrat is a mountain that leaves no one indiferent, from the distance it has the ability to capture your attention and it reminds me of the blades of a saw with no doubt. Actually Mont is mountain and serrat means saw off, the same name of the mountain indicates what you are seeing.
The moment you look closer into the mountain and its cavities, you will see that it seems to have been shaped by a magic hand and in some books it is said that the mountain was shaped by angels. No wonder why they thought that, the round shape of the mountain, its colors and big stones that are in one piece.
One of the typical things to do is to climb to Montserrat from the town Monistrol de Montserrat until you make it to the church on the top. At first this path was followed by pilgrims but in the end it has become a popular thing to do for people of all ages.
There are different paths to do the climb, the most popular one is the GR6 that can be followed by walking in Camí de les Canals i de l'Aigua and you will see the signs to follow with red and white stripes. It takes approximately 2 hours to do the climb. The difficulty is low so don't worry if you are not the sporty kind, the routei s very well indicated and well preserved to do the trekking with comfort.
For those who decide not to do the climb, they can still access Montserrat taking the little train called "cremallera", literally the zipper, from Monistrol de Montserrat and in 15 minutes takes you from the bottom of the mountain up to the peak. The cremallera is an option and there is also a telefèric that takes you up in only 5 minutes. I would recommend you the cremallera as you will enjoy the ride and have more time to observe the surroundings.