Montserrat is without a doubt the best day tour to enjoy from Barcelona. On a normal year, more than two and a half million tourists visit Montserrat. The sanctuary is located at a spectacular location inside a natural park. Part of its interest is due to its location.
Montserrat is first of all a mountain. But it is much more than just that: the Mountain and the natural park where it is located offer a beautiful landscape that is shaped by rocks of strange shapes. The mountain hosts a monastery with great historical and religious interest.
The monastery played an important role in the political and cultural life of Catalonia. Since 1918 the monastery’s own publishing company has published not only religious but also secular writings. The Escolanía, or the boys’ choir from the monastery’s boarding school, has produced quality Catalan musicians.
Plan your visit
You can plan your half-day or day trip to Montserrat in three different ways: get to Montserrat by train, drive by car or take a day tour of Montserrat:
- Montserrat by car: You will have to drive to Monistrol, a small town at the foot of Montserrat Mountain. At Monistrol you could either take the cogwheel train or the cable car. Another option is to drive all the way up and get close to the Monastery. You will need to pay at the parking and could walk to the Monastery.
- Montserrat by train: You could buy the Montserrat Express ticket which will include both the train ticket to Monistroll and the cogwheel ticket. Departure is from Plaça Espanya
- Guided tour to Montserrat: This is the most popular way to visit Montserrat, mainly because there are many different tours available that can suit nearly every need. We have shown above three of the most popular tours. You can find simple half-day tours, full-day tours, tours to Montserrat adapted for those arriving via cruise, or even very popular wine tours to Montserrat. You can find in this link the best-valued tours that combine wine tasting and a visit to the Abbey. Why are guided tours to Montserrat so popular? The main reason is that they are good value for money and compared to the train or self-drive, they are guided.
The monastery has a broad façade, by F. Folguera (1939) with reliefs by J. Rebull. On the right is the ‘Abbot’s Tower’ and, on the left, are the remains of the Gothic cloister, which Giuliano della Rovere, Abbot of Montserrat and later Pope Julius II, had built-in 1467. After the atrium comes the inner courtyard (19C), which has a Romanesque portal (12C) and 16C tombs. The marble façade was designed by D. Villar in the 19th Century, with sculptures by the Vallmitjana brothers.
Map of Montserrat
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 time 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 by 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)