What to visit / Near Barcelona / Barcelona / Montserrat

Montserrat

This natural park, which emerges as if from a dream, protects the spiritual essence of Catalonia. For almost 1,000 years, a Benedictine community has lived in these mountains located 60 km away from Barcelona. Their Basilica houses the serene image of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia.

Sense of spirituality is awoken at the mere sight of the mountain of Montserrat. Its astonishing rocky outcrops, which rise up into the air like sandcastles, have stimulated the imagination for millennia. The legend says that in the year 880 some shepherd boys found a statue of the black madonna, the "Moreneta", in a grotto. A chapel was built on this site which soon became a place of pilgrimage. The image now on display is a Romanesque wood carving dating from the late 12th century and the dark tones are the result of the deterioration of the varnish. The Benedictine monastery was founded by Abbot Oliba in 1025, but the 16th-century building and basilica were razed to the ground by Napoleon's troops in 1811.

The monastery has always been an active cultural centre. The library conserves the most ancient Catalan text (12th century) and a collection of 300,000 volumes. And every day you can hear the oldest children's choir in Europe, the "Escolania de Montserrat", sing. At the present time, the Benedictine community numbers 100 monks who devote themselves to prayer, work and welcoming pilgrims. The mountain is also the perfect place for hiking and climbing.

The Montserrat museum has an important section of early paintings, spanning the 13th to the 18th centuries, with works by Berruguete, El Greco, Caravaggio, Luca Giordano and Tiepolo. The museum's largest and most representative collection features Catalan paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries and includes major names such as Fortuny, Rusiñol, Casas, Nonell, Picasso and Dalí. You'll also find examples of French impressionism and works on paper by world-renowned contemporary painters such as Chagall, Braque, Le Corbusier, Miró, Dalí and Picasso.

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