Ermita de la Mare de Deu de la Roca, Mont-roig
Distance from L’Hospitalet de l’Infant: 5 Km
Type of activity: Cultural/landscape
Time required: 2 hours

The sanctuary of Mare de Deu de la Roca (Our Lady of the Rock) is perched on a spectacular cliff formed by red rocks. A site predating the present hermitage has been documented since 1230.  The present sanctuary was founded in 1299 to house a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that was venerated at this site. At first there was a fortified castle, of whose buildings several ruins remain, such as the surrounding defense wall that can be seen on the left side of the entrance. The dates of 1655 and 1786 inscribed on the arch of the entrance gate confirm that the sanctuary was repeatedly enlarged due to its growing popularity as a pilgrimage site. In subsequent times the hermitage suffered several devastating events. In 1811 it was sacked and burned by Napoleonic troops. It was then rebuilt, only to be destroyed again during the Spanish Civil War, when it was sacked again. After the war, the people of Mont-roig began to rebuild their hermitage and reproduced the ancient statue of the Virgin. But even this new statue was not meant to last: It was stolen in 1979. Again a new one was built in 1980, this is the one that is actually worshiped in the church today. 
With its tortured history the hermitage is a place shrouded in legend, and as you make your way up to the hermitage, look out for the ghosts of mysterious ancient visitors! One legend goes back to the times of the Reconquista: There was once a Moorish knight who rode up to the hermitage on his horse with the intention of robbing the sanctuary. While he was inside the church, heavy clouds started to obscure the sky, there was thunder and lightning, and all candles in the church went out, leaving the king in complete darkness. The knight hurriedly gathered his booty, went out on the square, mounted his horse and hurried on his way down the rock. The horse, however, frightened by the thunder, reared and slipped on the rocks. Knight and horse fell into a ravine at the spot that is nowadays called “descent of the Moorish king” (Baixada del rei moro). At this spot, watch out for the deep footprints of the horse slipping into the ravine! And there are even some who swear that on a clear day they can spot the faint silhouette of the knight with his horse on the opposite side of the gorge…