Darlene Foster's Blog

Monastery in the Montserrat Mountains

Posted on: August 15, 2019

During our stay in Tarragona, we took a bus to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, a place I have been wanting to visit for some time. The bus wound its way up into the Montserrat mountains in what seemed like hours. Why would anyone want to build a monastery all the way up here?  Our guide, a pleasant and well informed young man named Victor, explained it to us in three languages, English, French and Spanish.

The Montserrat mountains through the bus window.

Legend has it that shepherds discovered a Black Madonna in 880 AD when they heard music and saw a light coming from a cave high in the mountains. The statue, the oldest Black Madonna in Europe, is only 60 cm tall but when the bishop from the nearest town came to have it removed and taken to his cathedral, it proved impossible to move. So pilgrims began coming to the cave to see it. Eventually an abbey was built around the cave.

Once we reached our destination, the view from the top was incredible.

The sanctuary is built against the mountain to include the Madonna in her cave.


The Bascilica of Montserrat

Montserrat is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and a Benedictine monastery and has, for almost 1000 years, served pilgrims and visitors to the mountain. The building has been destroyed a few times over the years, including during the Napoleonic wars, when many of the monks were killed. It was also damaged in the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939). The building standing now was completed in 1949. Many pilgrms come to venerate the patron saint of Catalonia daily in La Santa Cava at the back of the cathedral. Montserrat has been modernised to continue attending to the needs of pilgrims one thousand years after it was originally founded.

Sculptures of monks killed by Napoleonic soldiers. Sad times.


Inside the chapel

Pilgrims and visitors lineup to ascend the stairs and view the Virgin.

The Virgin’s Chapel from inside the Basilica

The Black Madonna

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while paying homage to the Black Madonna. But Victor explained that from inside the basilica, from the floor of the chapel, I could take pictures. Later by enlarging and cropping, I was able to get a fairly good picture. It is amazing to see and left me awestruck.

Saints in the courtyard of the Basilica surrounded by amazing views.
A funicular takes visitors even higher up into the mountains
It was wonderful to wander around the grounds and take in the peaceful scenery.

Montserrat means Saw Mountain, as the range looks like the serrated edge of a saw and is the name of the Mountains and the sanctuary. It is a perfect place for walkers with many hiking trails available. A place to enjoy nature and contemplate life. There is also a fabulous art museum onsite which I will tell you about in another post.

I purchased a jar of honey made by the monks. I left feeling refreshed and at peace, satisfied I could tick off another place on that long list.

81 Responses to "Monastery in the Montserrat Mountains"

Wow, what a story and what a beautiful place!

It was quite the experience! So glad I was able to get there.


Thanks, pleased you enjoyed it!!

wonderful story and photos. The place looks amazing, and the views are stunning. thanks for sharing!

It was an amazing place, pleased you enjoyed the post.

Looks like our kind of place. Many monasteries in Nepal and Tibet are on hill tops or cliff faces too. Never had a really definitive answer to that, but lots of speculation.

You would like it. The art gallery was excellent as well. Many folks visited the church and then went on a hike. I missed the youth choir which is supposed to be exceptional. Maybe next time.

I can see why you wanted to visit, Darlene – these pics are just stunning.

Thanks, Teri. It has been on my list for a while but it’s not easy to get to. I was happy to let the bus driver manoeuvre those mountain roads.

I would like to spend a week there, decompressing. Very nice.

It would be the perfect place to decompress.

Beautiful photos! But the heights…I’m a bit woozy. 😊

Thanks, Felicia. It was high up but gorgeous.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a view of mountain vistas right now. Thank you for taking me there with your vivid pictures, Darlene!

I’m pleased you enjoyed the trip, Marian. The mountain vistas were stunning.

Wow what a fantastic historical story and lovely presentation of the mountain. Too good

I´m so pleased you enjoyed this and thanks for stopping by my blog!

What an amazing place, Darlene. Thanks for sharing.

I’m happy to share these special places I have been so fortunate to visit. Glad you enjoyed it, Mary.

Fascinating – and wonderful photos.

1000 years old- it boggles the mind! Stunning pictures, Darlene, thanks for the share.

Things are so much older here in Europe and so well preserved. Pleased you enjoyed the post, Jacquie.

My breathe stopped when I saw that first picture! Spectacular; what else can I say?

It was breathtaking! Thanks for the visit to my blog.

What an amazing place and like you, I came across a black Buddha here I am now going to try to learn some history as it is the only one I have seen and he is quite imposing…A beautiful post, Darlene 🙂 x

Oh wow! A Black Buddha. That would be something to see. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the Black Madonnas found throughout Europe. Glad you liked the post, Carol.

Absolutely stunning! Thank you for sharing these with us

Thanks, Ari. I love sharing my travels. xo

Such a beautiful place, we had planned to visit and stay up there with our motorhome few months ago, when we were touring Spain. Unfortunately it was not to be, but now looking at your gorgeous post I feel that we definitely need to include it on our itinerary for next time. How long did you spend up there?

It was a fabulous place with amazing scenery. It would be perfect for a motorhome stay. We were only there for the day, on a bus trip. I would have liked to have had a bit longer. I do hope you get there next time, Gilda.

I love that region. It is so gorgeous. Was unaware of a monastery there and it seems it was well worth the effort to get there. The scenery is so dramatic and it all seems so romantic.


Thanks, Peta. It is an awesome part of Spain. I´m so glad we finally took the effort to visit the site. You can see the lights of the monastery from Barcelona at night so wanted to go there for a long time. But it is a bit of a treck to get there. But anything worth seeing is usually not easy. xo

What beauty!

I am always so thankful whenever I encounter such beauty in the world.

That view is spectacular, and I know the pictures don’t do it justice. It must be breath-taking in person. I love stories like this, and I wonder how I can incorporate such stories/legends/myths into my fantasy stories. Thank you for sharing.

It was much more amazing in person. I am sure you could easily use some of this story in your wonderful books. I have another one coming you are going to just love!

Wow, I wanted to visit this place when we were last in Barcelona, but did not have enough time unfortunately. It looks pretty special Darlene 🙂

When in Barcelona, there is never enough time to see and do everything. Glad I finally made it as it was very special. I’m sure you will get there too one day. xo

It is a moving thought that for many generations no one gave up; rebuilding each time. If it was a ruin people would still visit; how mnay iconic ruins are there? But these people kept on building.

I know. They are determined to create a special place for their Madonna, building it bigger and better every time. Such devotion.

What history! What beauty and glory! Does it feel mystical when you’re there, or are there a lot of tourists? Thanks for your photos, helping me get a sense of this majestic place.

There are a lot of tourists, especially in the chapel. But I have learned to block them out and enjoy the moment. I found it to be a very mystical place, with a strong connection to the past and feeling of hope for the future. Set in nature with fabulous vistas, it felt very peaceful, in spite of the crowds (who all behaved in a respectful manner) I’m pleased you enjoyed the photos. xo

That was most enjoyable from my computer chair. Thanks for writing about the monastery and including your gorgeous photos.

Armchair travel can be most enjoyable. I felt the same travelling with you across America recently, from my chair. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos of this mystical place in the mountains of Spain.

What an incredible and fascinating find Darlene. There is a church in Positano with a Black Madonna with a long legend behind it as well. I’d love to visit this hidden gem to learn more, I can certainly see why the name Saw Tooth came to be.

There are a few Black Madonnas around, I believe. This was a great place and one I have wanted to visit for quite a while. There are so many unique places, often out of the way, in Europe. You would love this one.

I believe I would Darlene. One more for the list. 🙂

Reblogged this on Campbells World and commented:
I love reading posts such as this. It’s so nice to be able to at least glimpse a bit of other places even though I cannot travel to them.
Darlene also puts a bit of description of each picture. Nice.
Please do click over and read the entire post and if you do, please share.

Thanks so much for sharing Patty. I´m glad you enjoyed it.

What a remarkable place. I think that view answers your question as to why anyone would build a monastery up there! Wow! The Black Madonna is spectacular, as is the inside of the chapel. Thanks for sharing this!

If you can´t move the Madonna to the church, move the church to the Madonna! It was quite remarkable. Glad you enjoyed it.

Wow, thanks for sharing this visit, Darlene, it looks breathtaking. What an amazing feat to create such a building in that setting. It’s a mind stretching achievement – inspirational.

It was very inspirational. So pleased you found the post interesting, Cath.

Wow! Thanks for this lovely mini tour and a bit of the rich history. ❤

I love to share my travels, especially the interesting places we find. Glad you enjoyed this one, Debby.

And those of us living across the waters appreciate these little snippets 🙂

Gorgeous pictures of these beautiful buildings, works of art, and nature. The history and legends of the Black Madonna are found all over Europe. One of the sculptures is in the Monastery of Einsiedeln, Switzerland. But there are many more. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Christa. I would love to know more about the Black Madonnas. One legend is that the Knights Templar left them all over Europe. Do you have any more information about them? Glad you enjoyed the post.

Fabulous pictures of what sounds a very interesting place, and it’s always good to fulfil an ambition! I’m looking forward to your post about the art museum too 😊

I usually find these places exceed my expectations and I love to share my experiences. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post, Clive.

Your pictures are gorgeous! I’m just imagining what must have been a scary bus ride getting up there! Thanks for sharing. –Paige Bainbridge (www.paigebainbridge.com)

Thanks, Paige. Glad you enjoyed it. The bus ride was much better than if we had taken the car!

Incredible view, incredible place! Thanks for sharing.

It was quite something. Pleased you enjoyed it.

Wow! Thank you for the story and stunning photos. You must be thrilled to have been there.

You are welcome. It is another dream come true. Loved it as you can tell.

[…] a recent post, I wrote about a day trip to the Monastery of Montserrat high up in the mountains outside of Barcelona. As well as the impressive Basilica which houses a […]

Amazing photos! The place looks serene. Hopeful that we are able to visit someday.

It is definitely worth a visit!! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Darlene, I visited Tarragona years ago, but for some reason didn’t make it to this monastery. Your photos make it look like a great excursion. The panorama shots are wonderful. Modern pilgrims come in buses, but walking up this mountain make it a real pilgrimage. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been. There would be no question that this pilgrimage would put you in the good graces of the Inquisition. 🙂 ~ James

I also thought about how difficult it would have been years ago before roads, buses and funiculars. It was an amazing excursion and we are so glad we finally made it. There are many trips to the monastery from Barcelona but there is always so much else to do when in Barcelona. Thanks for visiting my blog.xo

[…] Monastery in the Montserrat Mountains — Darlene Foster’s Blog […]

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