Day Two in Spain: Montserrat

On our journey by water through the Eastern Caribbean, we dropped anchor for a few days in the island of Montserrat, known as “The Emerald Island of the Caribbean” due to its resemblance of coastal island and the Irish origin of many of its inhabitants. In 1493, Christopher Columbus named the island “Santa Maria de Monserrat,” after the Virgin of Monsterrat in the monastery of Montserrat, in the mountain of Montserrat, not far from Barcelona.

On day two of our Spanish holiday, we decided to visit this legendary, ragged hill. (Montserrat means “serrated mountain.”) After a well-needed nights sleep, we grabbed pastries from a local spot a few feet from our hotel entrance and walked to the Universtat Metro Station. From there, we took the Metro to Plaça d’Espanya train station where we took the R5 to Montserrat. One more train change onto the Cremallera for a 20 minute ride up to the famous Benedictine monastery.

On the train to Montserrat:  The mountain comes into view

On the train to Montserrat: The mountain comes into view

Upon arrival, we were first impressed by the striking rock formations, the serrations in the stone which were formed by the sinking of the lands around the rock, exposing these peaks to the erosive powers of nature. Or, as a hymn puts it, they were carved by little angels with golden saws. Take your pick.

The monastery of Montserrat, founded in the 11th century

The monastery of Montserrat, founded in the 11th century

The first hermit monks built huts on Montserrat around 900 A.D. The monastery was founded in 1025. A choir school followed and is still functioning, making it the oldest music school in all of Europe. We were blessed to listen to a small concert in the basilica while there. Speaking of the basilica — Although there has been a church here since the 11th century, the current neo-romanesque church was built in the 1850s, and the facade in 1968.

The facade of the Abbey

The facade of the Abbey

A view out into the nave from the elevated corridor leading to La Moreneta

A view out into the nave from the elevated corridor leading to La Moreneta

Inside the Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat

Inside the Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat

A extraordinarily modern altarpiece in one of the side chapels of the Abbey

A extraordinarily modern altarpiece in one of the side chapels of the Abbey

L'Escolania boy's choir

L’Escolania boy’s choir

Christy, as Vanna White, displaying the plaza in front of the Abbey facade

Christy, as Vanna White, displaying the plaza in front of the Abbey facade

The following video was recorded by one of the birthday girls on their iPhone. I apologize for the vertical orientation. The person responsible has been adequately scolded. 🙂

The most important attraction at the monastery is La Moreneta, a small wooden statue of the Black Virgin which was discovered in a Sacred Cave in the 12th century. Tradition states it was carved by St. Luke, brought to Spain by St. Peter, hidden in a nearby cave during the invasion of the Moors, and discovered by shepherd children in medieval times.

Side view of La Moreneta, behind glass well above the altar.

Side view of La Moreneta, behind glass well above the altar.

The sacred La Moreneta

The sacred La Moreneta

A place for prayer and reflection as one leaves the sanctuary after having seen La Moreneta

A place for prayer and reflection as one leaves the sanctuary after having seen La Moreneta

Montserrat is also home to a very nice museum whose collection is the product of donations by devout Catalan Catholics. There are works by Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Renoir, Degas and numerous local artists. We were especially happy to see an excellent exhibit on the “Phos Hilaron: Icons of the Orient” (the Orthodox churches).

Medieval art from the Montserrat Museum

Medieval art from the Montserrat Museum

Monet in Montserrat

Monet in Montserrat

Can you guess who did this?  I didn't think so.  It is a Picasso: "The Old Fisherman"

Can you guess who did this? I didn’t think so. It is a Picasso: “The Old Fisherman”

A wonderful landscape by Joaquin Vayreda, a 19th century Spanish landscape painter

A wonderful landscape by Joaquin Vayreda, a 19th century Spanish landscape painter

My Venus standing in front of 19th century Spanish paintings.

My Venus standing in front of 19th century Spanish paintings.

Can you guess who painted this? Again, I didn't think so.  How about Salvador Dali!  A portrait of his father.

Can you guess who painted this? Again, I didn’t think so. How about Salvador Dali! A portrait of his father.

A striking contemporary work with thickly applied paint.

A striking contemporary work with thickly applied paint.

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Icon

Standing among Icons

Standing among Icons

My love and I

My love and I

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Icon

Just before we returned to Barcelona, we rode 820 feet further up the mountain on the Saint Joan Funicular. Once on top, I followed at 20-minute hiking trail up to the Chapel of St. Joan. The views were amazing.

Birthday girls on the plaza in front of the monastery.  "Serrated" rock behind.

Birthday girls on the plaza in front of the monastery. “Serrated” rock behind.

The view from outside the monastery

The view from outside the monastery

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Ascending the mountain on the funicular (monastery seen below)

Ascending the mountain on the funicular (monastery seen below)

The chapel of St. Joan, high above the monastery

The chapel of St. Joan, high above the monastery

When we finally arrived back in Barcelona, the sun had set and we were ready for dinner. I had made reservations at a restaurant recommended to me by a fellow airline passenger, 7 Portes. There was a wonderful ambience and the food was very good. I partook of the local Catalan dish, Paella Parellada, a rice and seafood dish. Mmmm! An after dinner walk back up La Rambla transported us to our hotel where a well-deserved rest awaited.

On the railway from the train station to the Montserrat monastery

On the railway from the train station to the Montserrat monastery

Christy waiting on our train to Montserrat

Christy waiting on our train to Montserrat

Cindy on the metro ride from the train station

Cindy on the metro ride from the train station

Fountain near our dinner destination

Fountain near our dinner destination

7 Portes, a wonderful restaurant in the area of town known as Barceloneta

7 Portes, a wonderful restaurant in the area of town known as Barceloneta

Our wine, bread, and olives on the table prior to our main meals.

Our wine, bread, and olives on the table prior to our main meals.

Dining at 7 Portes

Dining at 7 Portes

Paella Parellada! (Taken from their website.  I ate mine before I took a picture.) :)

Paella Parellada! (Taken from their website. I ate mine before I took a picture.) 🙂

Walking on the La Rambla from our restaurant to our hotel

Walking on the La Rambla from our restaurant to our hotel

Interior of the Parròquia de la Mare de Déu de Betlem, a church we passed along La Rambla

Interior of the Parròquia de la Mare de Déu de Betlem, a church we passed along La Rambla

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