Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

Monestir Montserrat

This weird shape mountain range to the west of Barcelona it the place where the main religious center of Catalonia is located. The legend has it that in the 9th century on this "cut mountain" (as its name can be translated) shepherds had a vision of Virgin Mary. Later on her statue was found here, supposedly it was created by Saint Luke and brought to Catalonia by Saint Peter. However, most probably it dates back to the 12th century. The wooden sculpture became darker with ages, which is why people called it La Moreneta ("the little dark-skinned one"). The statue was so honored that already in 1025 a Benedictine monastery was erected on the mountain.

After the monastery was ransacked by Napoleon’s soldiers there wasn’t much left of the Gothic structures (only the cloister and the belfry), although the Renaissance facade of the church built in 16th century remained almost intact to our days. The reconstruction of this monastery that still operates started in 1844, and in 1881 the Virgin of Montserrat, or the black Madonna with infant Christ was proclaimed the patron of all Catalonia. It is in her honor that many girls’ are given the second name of Montserrat after baptizing. The most famous woman to have such a name is Montserrat Caballe, Spanish operatic soprano. To the right of the main entrance to the church there is a separate passage next to which there is always a queue of those willing to bow before the Mother of God.

The monastery has a rich library and possesses an excellent collection of paintings (from Byzantine icons, Caravaggio, El Greco and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to Picasso) that is on display at the Museu de Montserrat. We also recommend you to listen to one of the best boys’ choir in Europe (L'Escolania de Montserrat). When on top of the mountain, take a walk to the Santa Cova (Sacred Cave) chapel where the statue of the Virgin was found. The highest point of Montserrat range is Sant Jeroni mountain (1236 meters high).

In addition to the monastery tour it would be a good idea to ramble along the beaten tracks. Mountain climbers often book a several days stay at a hotel near the monastery. The views from the tracks are simply magnificent, if it is sunny, one can even look at the bright surface of the sea. A trip is likely to take the whole day, as it is better to come as early as possible not to be standing in the line to Madonna. You will also be able to enjoy the magical singing of the boys’ choir and to ramble along the narrow paths between the rocks. It is also worthy to take a climb to the highest point of the mountain to observe the monastery from above, you will never forget the views.

Consult the train schedule to and from Barcelona as well as that of the funicular in advance. If you are not in time for the last carriage descending from the mountain you will have to go by foot (a very picturesque surroundings, but at least an hour long walk).

Address: 08199 Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain
Opening hours: church – daily 7.30 am – 8 pm; black virgin – daily 8 am – 10.30 am, 12 pm – 6.30 pm; July 15 – September 30 7.30 pm – 8 pm; museum – daily 10 am – 5.45 pm, expos Mon-Fri 9 am – 5.45 pm, Sat-Sun 9 am – 6.45 pm, choir Mon-Fri 1 pm, Mon-Thu 6.45 pm, Sundays and holidays 12 pm, 6.45 pm; no choir performances during Christmas holidays
How to reach: the monastery, situated 48 km west of Barcelona at the height of 720 meters above the sea level, can be reached by car (there is a parking space), train or cable car. First you should go to Plaça d'Espanya station to R5 line heading to Manresa. Signs pointing the way to R5 are rare, so it will be better to have some additional time to find it, as the station itself is very large and has a lot of exits and entrances. Tickets can be bought from a cash desk on the platform (there might be queues). The trains depart every hour starting from 8.30 am. When buying a ticket bear in mind that you will have to use the same means of transport to go to the monastery and to descend. If you are willing to use the cable car (to stand for 5 minutes watching some breathtaking views) you should buy a ticket to Montserrat Aeri. If you opt for a more comfortable but less picturesque trip by a rack railway (Cremallera Funicular, 15 minutes, seats available) your choice will be Monistrol de Montserrat. The price is the same; however the tickets are not interchangeable.

It is also possible to use a combined Trans Montserrat ticket. When purchasing the ticket you should mention the means of transport that you would like to use – with cable car or with Cremallera funicular. This ticket includes return train trip with an option of choosing uphill means of transport, return funicular ride from the monastery to the highest point of the mountain, two trips by metro.

Another combined ticket is called Tot Montserrat (All of Montserrat). It includes everything from the Trans Montserrat plus Montserrat museum entry and buffet lunch at a restaurant near Montserrat.

Since 2014 there is a Montserrat-Express train that departs daily from Plaça d'Espanya at 8.55 am. Return train is leaving at 2.55 pm. A return ticket costs around 50 euros. It includes an MP3 audioguide, guidebook, funicular or cable car ride to the monastery, a return ticket to funicular that goes to the mountaintop, and monastery cookies.

Coordinates: 41.59333, 1.83766