Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Benedictine Abbey at Montserrat, near Barcelona

Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona. It is the site of a Benedictine abbey, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary.

The name "Montserrat" literally means "jagged mountain".

The summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 1,236 meters (4.055 feet) above sea-level. It is accessible by trails which connect from the top to the monastery.

Above the monastery, there are various chapels and abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of hermits.

Veneration to the Virgin at the site is recorded as far back as 880 AD.

By the 9th century, there were four chapels on Montserrat, of which only one remains - St. Aciscolo's, which is in the monastery's garden. In the 11th century, the abbot-bishop Oliba founded a monastery on the mountain of Montserrat, next to one of the chapels. Many miracles were reported through the intercession of the Virgin Mary at Montserrat.

According to historians, it was then, in the 12th century, that the statue of the Madonna and Child was made.

The Madonna statue soon earned widespread fame as numerous miracles were associated with the intercession of the Black Virgin of Montserrat.

Many of the first missionary churches in Mexico, Chile and Peru were dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat and many saints and popes have visited the shrine over the centuries.

St. Ignatius Loyola made a pilgrimage to Montserrat after being injured in war, Upon recovery, he visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. He made a general confession at the famous shrine, where, after three days of self-examination, and carefully noting his sins, he confessed, gave to the poor the rich clothes in which he had come, and put on garment of sack-cloth reaching to his feet. His sword and dagger he suspended at Our Lady's altar, and passed the night watching before them. Next morning, the feast of the Annunciation, (March 25, 1522), after Communion, he left the sanctuary. He then went and spent several months in a cave near the town of Manresa, Catalonia where he practiced the most rigorous asceticism.

The months of privation and solitude were said to have brought visions of the Virgin Mary and she then became the object of his chivalrous devotion in which military imagery played a prominent part.

During those months, he drafted his Ejercicios espirituales (Spiritual Exercises) which describes a series of meditations to be undertaken by various people who came to him for spiritual direction, including in due time the early Jesuits.

Due to the great numbers of pilgrims that flocked to Montserrat throughout the Middle Ages, the monastery was enlarged from its original humble size. In 1592, the grand basilica of Montserrat was consecrated.

In the late 18th century, almost the entire sanctuary was destroyed during the Napoleonic invasion. But due to the widespread devotion to the shrine, it was soon restored.

In 1881, Montserrat's Black Madonna was crowned in accordance with Canon Law and proclaimed patron saint of Catalonia by Pope Leo XIII.

The Monastery of Montserrat, located near the top of the 4,000-foot mountain, is home to about 80 monks.

The Basilica, next to the monastery, is home to the revered La Moreneta, or Black Virgin.

The statue of the Virgin, known in Spanish as La Moreneta, is a small Romanesque statue made of wood. It depicts a seated Black Virgin with the child Jesus on her lap. Her dark color is due to changes in the varnish with the passage of time.


For more information and images including Virtual Tours (parts are in English)
See the official abbey web site at

As well as Monserratweb:

Sierra de Montserrat

And the Official Catalonian Tourist web site that deals with Monserrat:
Central de Reserves de Montserrat, at

Images at Lodgephoto:

The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (Catalan for "Red Book of Montserrat") is a collection of late medieval songs. The 14th century manuscript was located at the monastery of Montserrat. The manuscript was prepared in approximately 1399. It originally contained 172 double pages, of which 32 have been lost. The title "The Red Book of Montserrat" describes the red binding in which the collection was placed in the nineteenth century. The songs, were written for the pilgrims to have something appropriately "chaste and pious" to sing. The songs are in Catalan and in Latin. While the collection was written near the end of the fourteenth century, much of the music in the collection appears from its style to originate earlier.


Amaranth Publishing Home Page (including MIDI Samples from Llibre Vermell) at

Mariam matrem virginem (MIDI file) at