Our last day at Barcelona trip, we wanted to visit Montserrat. Montserrat is a mountain top monastery in Catalonia, Spain. Situated atop an unusual rock mountain, it is very popular among Catalans, and Catholic pilgrims come from far and wide to see the Black Madonna.
At 1236 meters 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.
Montserrat is situated approx. 30 miles away from Barcelona, and is easily accessible by train, car and bus. Travelling from Barcelona, take Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat (R5 Line) train from Plaça d’Espanya to Montserrat-Aeri.
You must decide in Barcelona itself whether you choose the cable car ticket or the funicular. Once bought, you cannot change your mind. It’s best to opt for the cable car ticket which is what we did. From Montserrat-Aeri, take the cable car up. Remember to find out what time the last cable car will leave; you don’t want to be left on the mountain top!
The funicular railway (Cremallera de Montserrat) is the slower route to take to Montserrat. It is very similar to the previous option take the same R5 Line train from Plaça d’Espanya, Barcelona but to the next stop: at Monistrol de Montserrat you can change for the funicular railway (Cremallera de Montserrat). Combined return adult ticket costs €20 (including the funicular to Montserrat Monastery). Total travel time is 90 minutes one way (Placa d’Espanya-Monserrat Monastery). The last funicular runs at 18:15 downhill.
The funicular railway is not as scenic as the cable car, but cheaper, and users get the first choice of seats on the R5 for the journey back to Barcelona – cable car users get on one stop later.
The only way to get around the Montserrat monastery complex is on foot (it’s not too big though!) The first thing you must do is to visit the Black Madonna. There will be long lines, and it can take about one hour in the line. Then you can explore at leisure. We tried standing in line, but the line was too long and a lot of construction going on in the monastery. So we decided to skip it and to take the tour around.
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat, and the Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, the oldest press in the world, still running, with the first book published in 1499.
The Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia’s favorite saint and is in the sanctuary of the Mare de Deu de Montserrat.
It is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church, it is a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century.
Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. The statue’s sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon and is now a site of pilgrimage.
In 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia.
Montserrat’s highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by a footpath from the top station of the Funicular Sant Joan. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen and on a clear day, the island of Majorca is visible.
Hike around the peaks. Leave either from the monastery 2-3 hours to Sant Jeroni (via the cross of Sant Miquel), and back downhill through the shady valley or from the top of the Sant Joan funicular (1-2 hrs to top). The main trails are well marked, but still do pick up a map at the information desk first. Due to lack of time we skipped both these hikes.
Places to eat at Montserrat are limited and expensive but of high quality and good meal choices (cafeteria style). We decided to travel back and catch up lunch back in Barcelona.
In my next part of this blog, I will be covering the Park Güell the last part of our journey at Barcelona before we embarked to Milan.