May 10, 2017
Despite the long day yesterday, alarms were set for 5:30a so that we could get ready and arrive on time for our 6:45 bus to Montserrat (meaning literally, saw mountain) and the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Located about a hour by bus NW of Barcelona, Montserrat has a unique serrated shape compared to the smoother sloped mountains around the area. There is evidence of monks inhabiting this mountain as early as the 9th century. The construction of the abbey is centered around the Miracle of the Black Madonna, a wood carving from around the 9th century that was found in a cave. A bishop wished to move the Madonna off the mountain and build an abbey, but when people attempted to move it, it became heavy as if it were made of iron. It was then decided to build the abbey on the mountain. Because of the mountain's unique shape it had been considered a holy place for centuries. Geologically, its formation is thought to be from sedimentary rocks formally at the bottom of a great sea. The forces that pushed up the Pyrenees also pushed up Montserrat while ancient rivers cut the distinctive shapes.
Our early tour time paid off with us being the first to the abbey before other tourists arrived. The surrounding views are spectacular! We toured through the abbey, saw the black Madonna, then took a funicular ride another 800 ft up the mountain to take in even more awesome views. We were treated to the site of a mountain goat impossibly traversing across a steep slope. Once back down to the abbey, we looked through a small museum of art curated by the abbey with several paintings we had not seen previously. Also included in the tour was a tasting of multiple styles of digestives made in the surrounding area. Very yummy! And there was much sleeping on the bus ride back!
May 10, 2017