A short history of Montserrat
As is the case in the history of so many religious venues, its history starts with the discovery of a figure of the Virgin of Montserrat. Though there is not a full agreement on the date this happened, it seems it was around the year 880.
After this discovery, chapels were built in different areas of the mountain and during the 11th century a monastery was built from one of these chapels; the hermitage of Santa Maria de Montserrat. But over three centuries had to pass before that monastery became an independent abbey!
Despite the long history of the monastery, do not expect to find medieval buildings at Montserrat: the monastery was almost completely destroyed by Napoleonic forces during the XIXth century. The monastery was rebuilt during part of the XIXth century and the early XXth century.
The monastery belongs to the Benedictine order and a community of some eighty monks lives at the monastery on a yearly basis. The number increases during some months of the year when other monks join to meditate at Montserrat.
La Moreneta (“the black lady”)
La Moreneta is the popular name given to the Virgin of Montserrat. She has been the Patron saint of Catalonia since 1881.
The legend has the Moreneta found in a cave in Montserrat. The Christians would have hidden the virgin at the times of the Muslim invasion and it would have been found by shepherds during the IXth century. The bishop of Vich requested an investigation of this finding. They tried to take the virgin to the city of Manresa, but it was not possible, and this was taken as a sign that the virgin would prefer to stay in Montserrat.
La Moreneta was granted the Canonical Coronation from Pope Leo XIII and she was named Patroness of Catalonia in 1881.
For centuries, pilgrims from all over the world have visited Montserrat and La Moreneta. One of them was Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. San Ignacio went to Montserrat as a warrior and after days of meditation near La Moreneta he found a different path for his life.
In 2001 research was conducted to establish the date of the image of La Moreneta and the outcome highlighted that the image at Montserrat is the original one from the Middle ages. It is a wooden piece and despite it was originally white, lead was used and it went dark through time. It was then painted black.
There are hundreds of churches all over the world dedicated to the virgin of Montserrat (only in Italy there are more than a hundred)