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Monday, August 27, 2012 (read 1309 times)
Montserrat Monastery in Barcelona, Spainby Seun
Montserrat is a mountain situated at 50km to the north-east of the city of Barcelona. Just as the Himalayas are to India, and the Pennines to those northern English counties, so too, Montserrat is to Catalonia that defining geographical feature of the region. The seemingly barren mountain plays host to a variety of vegetation and an accompanying wildlife including, wild boars, goats, eagles and owls. But as well as a natural park, Montserrat is a sanctuary; an ancient offering of devotion to God in form of a monastery and an aged legend of a virgin to whom the monastery is dedicated.
The sanctuary: in mentioning the sanctuary, we refer to Montserrat in its entirety. The mountain is just as much a part of that holy place as the monastery, its chapels and abbey, and the beauty of nature that surrounds it.
The monastery: at 720 metres above sea level, the monasterio de Santa María de Montserrat is verily at the height of tourist popularity; it is both a destination of pilgrimage for the fervent believer and the intrigued holiday maker. Although the founding of the monastery is unclear, there is certainly at least a millennium of continuing history to the Montserrat Monastery. Whilst one half of the site today lends itself to the entertainment of pilgrims and visitors, monastic life at Montserrat continues with 80 monks who dedicate their lives to prayer, providing refuge, and work, according to motto of Saint Benedict of Nursia (the patron saint of students). There is also a chorister school there in which 50 boys are educated and sing the daily services at the monastery.
The virgin: the Virgen de Montserrat, or La Moreneta as she is commonly known because of her dark colour, is the patron of Catalonia and her festival is celebrated on April 27 annually. Legend has it that some young shepherds discovered the statue of a virgin inside a cave at Montserrat in 880 AD. Upon finding out about the virgin, the Bishop of Manresa (a near by town) attempted to see to the moving of the statue, but only in vain because it was too heavy. He then interpreted this as a sign from God and ordered the building of the Ermita de Santa María on the site of that cave. Such was the founding of the monastery.
The statue of the virgin is one of the most visited. It depicts the virgin with baby Jesus sat on her lap. In her right hand she carries a spherical object supposedly symbolising the world. Of particular and continuing interest is the apparently black face and hands that this virgin negra has. In this case, the reason may be the blackening of populus wood over time.
Just a footstep away from Barcelona, Montserrat is undoubtedly worth a visit.
Keywords: montserrat, montserrat catalonia, montserrat barcelona, montserrat monastery, montserrat mountain barcelona