After exploring El-born, visiting all the art in and around Barcelona and eating all the tapas… it is time to head out to see the serrated mountains of Montserrat, Spain. Seeing the unique shape of the mountains up-close alone warrants a visit even if you don’t believe in the miracles of ‘La Moreneta’ – the wooden statue that is believed to have been carved by St Luke in 50 AD. Here are some tips to plan a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat, Spain to see the mountains and the statue of the seated Black Virgin Mary with the child Jesus on her lap.
The mountain of Montserrat is a place of worship and a place where many pilgrims go. It is one of the most famous religious sites in Catalonia. It is said that these mountains are a source of great energy, in fact, one of the best in Europe, and people flock to it for the experience. There are funiculars aka cable cars to the Santa Cova where La Moreneta was first found. After visiting the Montserrat Monastery and Basilica don’t miss going to the top of the mountain for some incredible views and hikes.
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How to get to Montserrat, Spain
Did you know there is a Montserrat in the Caribbean island? We not talking about going there but to Montserrat in Spain!
Montserrat is about 1 1/2 hours from Barcelona by train. If you are flying in or out of Madrid, Barcelona is only 2 1/2 hours by high-speed train. If you love being in the mountains, I would highly suggest adding a day trip to Montserrat, Spain.
It is relatively easy to take the train from Barcelona to Montserrat, it takes only an hour. From Barcelona Placa d’Espanya station take the R5 train. The Placa d’Espanya/España rail station is on the green and red metro lines making it accessible from any part of Barcelona city center that has a metro stop.
Once at España station look for Line R5 headed towards Manresa. There is a train every hour. You can take the train to either the Aeri de Montserrat stop or get off one station further at the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. If you want to take the cable car up to Monsterrat get off at the Aeri de Montserrat stop. If you want to go by rack railway (Cremallera), get off at the next stop at Monistrol de Montserrat. Either of the options takes an additional 20 to 30 minutes to get to the Montserrat Monastery. See here for the ticket options.
You can get an All Montserrat ticket which includes the train ticket from Barcelona and the rack railway, tickets to the Museum, the Audiovisual Space, funicular de Sant Joan and a Buffet/Coffee Shop Lunch, an option with the rack railway or the Montserrat Express which includes Train and rack railway, welcome pack with a guide the shrine, an mp3 Sanctuary audio guide.
If you would rather not deal with the train and go on an organized tour, we loved this small tour by Julia which we booked. They dropped us at the station where we took the rack railway and picked us up from there. You can book the small group tour through this link.
La Moreneta, the statue of the Virgin Mary
The statue of the Virgin is called “La Moreneta” because of the black color of her face. The statue is a wooden Romanesque statue which is said to be from the end of the 12th century. The varnish on the statue has oxidized and because of the effect of candle smoke and the smoke of lamps, the appearance is now black. The Virgin has a crown of diadems and has a ball in her hand. On her lap is a statue of Jesus Christ. He also has a crown and His hand is making a sign of blessing, while the other hand is holding a pine cone.
Many women in Spain are named Montserrat and she is revered all over the world. One of the men who accompanied Columbus in the New World was a former monk from Montserrat and he started her veneration in the Americas.
Santa Cova, the Holy cave
The history of Montserrat is fascinating. It all somewhere in 880 when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. They heard angels singing, and the music filled their hearts with joy. They brought their parents and local vicar to the spot. When this cave was explored by the religious leaders of the community, they found an image of the Virgin Mary. And from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims. Today the site of the visions has been marked by a Holy Grotto on the mountain. You can walk to the Holy Grotto.
Montserrat Monastery and Basilica
It is not known exactly when Monks first came to Montserrat and began to build a Monastery. It is believed that in the ninth century four Chapels were built on Montserrat Mountain, of which only one is still standing. It is now located in the Monastery garden. It is believed that the Monastery was inhabited by hermit Monks who lived a solitary life of prayer. In the 19th century, Montserrat was destroyed by Napoleon’s army and all but one Monk left the Monastery. However, in 1844 the Monks returned to Montserrat, and in 1858 the reconstruction of Montserrat began and now is a site everyone can visit.
When you enter the basilica, on the atrium floor, there is a medallion in the center and there is an inscription around it with a message that only those baptized and born in the water like fish can understand the meaning of the fish of the Eucharist. People of many faiths and children like to balance themselves on one foot on this atrium floor, as it is a custom from way back. We saw quite a few people doing this while we were there.
After seeing the basilica, you can see the museum. The museum is in a building across from the basilica and it is built underground, comprising of two stories. There are many works of art donated by rich Catalans. There are archaeology pieces from the Bible lands, gold and silver work from the 15th -20th centuries, and beautiful paintings from masters such as Caravaggio, El Greco, Sisley, Dali, and many Catalan artists from the early 20th century. There are also many paintings done by many artists with the subject of Saint Mary of Montserrat. This museum is one of the best private museums in Spain.
After visiting the museum we enjoyed the surrounding scenery and visited the markets that were selling homemade soap, jelly, honey and handmade items. Plan for the whole day if you are planning on going on some hikes in the area.
A few more photos from the Montserrat Monastery and Basilica