Montserrat
Distance from l’Hospitalet de l’Infant: 142 Km
Type of activity: cultural, hiking
Time required: one day
 
 Located about 140 km from L’Hospitalet de l’Infant, the world-famous abbey of Montserrat is a spectacular destination that requires a whole day for a visit. The monastery is perched up high on a breath-taking cliff in the midst of the mountain range of the Montserrat, literally the “sawed-up mountain”, that rises up to 735 meters and gives it its name. Deep crevices divide the rocks into formations of blocks and cones towering high into the sky and creating an eerie silhouette. Looking up at the mountain one can understand how it was once believed to be the home of the Holy Grail and of the mysterious castle of Percival.
 
The abbey of Monserrat is located at the end of a particularly deep crevice, which provides the mountain’s second name Montsegrat (holy mountain). After the world-famous Santiago de Compostela, Monstserrat is Spain’s second place of pilgrimage. For the Catalans the site holds special meaning as a symbol of their cultural heritage and national identity, as it served as a protective bastion against political repression during the darkest hours of Catalan history.
 
According to the legend a monastery was built on this site in 880 after a dark wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was discovered there. The statue was said to have been carved by the Evangelist Luke himself. According to the legend, during transportation the statue became so heavy that it could no longer be moved. This was taken as an omen that the Virgin Mary wanted her sanctuary in exactly that spot. In 1025, Abbot Oliba from Ripoll founded a small monastery beside the existing chapel of the Virgin Mary. The site gradually rose to become an important center of worship of the Virgin, attracting pilgrims from all of Catalonia who came to see “La Moreneta”, as the small dark statue of the Virgin is called (the statue is actually dated by experts to the 12th or 13th century).  
 
During the Napoleonic Wars (1808-1811) the monastery suffered severe devastation and had to be rebuilt. Most buildings visible today are from the mid-19th century. With the Catalan renaissance (Renaixença) Montserrat became a veritable bastion of Catalan nationalism. Even under Franco mass was read in Catalá, a newspaper was issued in the forbidden language and exponents of Catalan resistance found a safe haven at the sanctuary. 
 
Getting to Montserrat
Coming from L´Hospitalet de l’Infant the easiest way is by taking the AP-7 motorway to Tarragona, then towards Barcelona and exiting at Martorell, A-2 dual carriageway (Manresa exit), C-55 road to Monistrol de Montserrat and from there to Montserrat. You may also cover the last stretch either by rack railway (cremallera), or by cable car (Aeri), which will offer you spectacular panoramas across the surrounding mountains and valleys.  The journey from the railway station in Monistrol de Montserrat to the monastery covers 5 km and takes 15 minutes, with departures from Monistrol  Vila every 20 minutes. Montserrat’s Aeri (cable car), is the quickest way to get up to the sanctuary, as it covers the 1,350-metre journey in just 5 minutes. Cable cars depart every 15 minutes. For more detail for your route planning to Montserrat we recommend that you consult www.cremallerademontserrat.cat
 
 
Walking to Montserrat
Walking up to Montserrat is a tradition that reaches back to the Middle Ages, when pilgrims walked up the mountain to worship the statue of the Virgin Mary. Several hiking paths connect a network of thirteen hermiates. The following suggestions refer to paths to the main sanctuary from neighbouring villages and are described in detail on the Montserrat website www.montserrat.net 
The duration of the different routes is approximately the same, around 1h 45 min.

From Monistrol:
Camí de les Canals i de l’Aigua, GR 5/96 (Canals and Water Path). Known as the Montserrat Pilgrimage Path.
Drecera dels Tres Quarts (Three Quarters short cut)This path coincides with a stretch of long-distance route GR 96 and is marked out by the red and white GR signs. Total ascent of 525 m.
PR-C 19. Indicated by the official yellow and white short-distance route signs
 
From Collbató:
Taking the Graus, Voltes and Sant Miquel paths. A route that, excepting the first stretch, follows the traditional path up to the sanctuary from Collbató, the so-called Camí de les Voltes, the most-used one by pilgrims before roads were built. Total ascent 450 m
Coves del Salnitre (Nitre caves), Collbató - Monastery. Visit the Coves del Salnitre and the Santa Cova (Holy Grotto). The route coincides partially with a stretch along long-distance paths GR 5, 6, 6-1 and 172. Total ascent of some 250 metres.
 
Hikes around Montserrat
Montserrat
 
From the monastery several hiking paths invite you to discover the breathtaking beauty of the wild and rugged mountain range of Montserrat. Suggested below are a few of the easier routes in the environs of the monastery. For details please consult the hiking brochure available at the Monastery’s Information center or see www.montserratvisita.com.
 
1.   From the sanctuary to Pla de les Taràntules via Pla de Sant Miquel. An easy path with splendid views, approx. 50 min.  
 
2.  From the sanctuary to Placeta de Santa Anna, taking the Pas dels Francesos. The path, signposted by the white and red GR 4 and GR 172 signs, is clear and easy to follow, with many stretches along cement. Total ascent is 200 m, with more than 800 cement steps in various sections along the way. 20 minutes approx.
 
3.   From the sanctuary to Sant Jeroni. Visitors will no doubt enjoy the most spectacular view from the peak of Mount Sant Jeroni (1,236 m). 3.5 hours, approximately, or 2.5 hours for those taking the Sant Joan funicular railway.
 
4.  From Pla de les Taràntules to the Sant Joan Chapel and Viewpoint. This is a short, easy walk, entailing a total ascent of about 100 m, to a viewpoint commanding splendid vistas. 15 minutes approximately.
 
5.  From Pla de les Taràntules to the Santa Magdalena Chapel and viewpoint. Taking Jacob’s Stairway, a picturesque walk to the ruins of the Chapel of Santa Magdalena, one of the highest points in this mountainous region, and a superb viewpoint. Total ascent: 150 m. Duration: 20 minutes approximately.

6.  From the sanctuary to Pla de Trinitat. After a first, steep section up the steps known as Les Escales dels Pobres, this route follows gentler paths to some of the chapels, or ruins, around Tebaida (Sant Benet, Santíssima Trinitat, Santa Creu and Sant Dimes). Duration: 1 hour approximately.

7. From the sanctuary to Santa Cecília, taking the Camí de l’Arrel path. The whole route is marked out by white and red signs, as it coincides with a stretch of the GR 4 and GR 172 long distance paths. Steep steps from Pla de la Trinitat and steady descent to Santa Cecília at an altitude 250 metres lower. Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes, approximately. 
 
Sightseeing at Montserrat

The monastery is a large complex built to accommodate the spiritual and physical needs of the large masses of pilgrims arriving here throughout the centuries. Upon arrival you may want to orient yourself at the Espai Audiovisual, a modern documentation site located in the building that houses the Information and Reservation Center. A useful audio-visual overview of the history and culture of the monastery is provided in several languages.
 
Basilica
The basilica is accessed through the Plaça Santa Maria. The façade towards the square was completed only in 1968. To the left are remains of the Gothic cloister. Behind the façade a narrow courtyard precedes the actual abbey. The building goes back to the 16th century but was destroyed and subsequently altered to such an extent that its original Renaissance features are hardly recognizable. The décor of the dark interior, illuminated only by candle light, is of more recent origin as well. The famous wooden statue La Moreneta is accessed through a small side door to the right. As is to be expected at a site of pilgrimage, this space is always rather crowded.
 
Escolania
Montserrat is home to one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe. Documents testify to the existence of a music school in Montserrat as far back as the early 14th century. The Escolania now accompanies religious ceremonies in the basilica. All the choir members receive musical training at the highest level, along with an academic education. The choir enjoys international fame, performing in concerts all over the world and recording a vast repertoire. In the course of its history, the school has produced a good number of choirmasters and musicians, as well as well-known composers and teachers. The Escolania also enables some of the monks at Montserrat to work in the field of composing as well as producing and teaching music.
 
Montserrat library
The production of manuscripts at the monastery has been recorded since the 11th century. In the 12th century Montserrat added its own scriptorium, that became particularly active during the 14th and 15th centuries. The establishment of a printing press by Abbot Cisneros in 1499 was decisive in furthering the Monastery’s cultural mission. The library houses 1’500 manuscripts and 400 incunabula (earliest examples of print, i.e. books printed before the year 1501).The library continued to grow and diversify throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, when its shelves held thousands of books. Unfortunately, many of the library’s greatest treasures were lost when the monastery was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars in 1811.  
 
The library as it stands today was founded in the late-19th century and expanded greatly under the guidance of abbot Antoni M. Marcet (1913-1946) when, in just a few years, the library’s holdings increased from 15’000 to around 150’000 volumes. Later, acquisitions ceased as rare volumes became more difficult to come by, first due to the Spanish Civil War and later due to the Second World War. However, over the last few decades, the number of volumes in the library has doubled. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on philosophy, theology, Bible studies, patrology, liturgy, music, and art history. The library also contains excellent sections on general history, particularly mediaeval and European, as well as on the history of Catalonia and the countries of the Crown of Aragón, with an important collection of works devoted to local history and to the Spanish Civil War.
 
Monserrat Art Museum
The museum houses more than 1300 art objects, organized in various collections, including a collection of Byzantine and Slavic icons, a collection of liturgical objects, a painting collection comprising works from the 13th to the 18th century (including works by El Greco, Caravaggio, Luca Giordano, Tiepolo, etc.), and a  19th and 20th century Painting Collection which boasts some of the finest Catalan paintings. This includes such outstanding names as Fortuny, Rusiñol, Casas, Nonell, Mir, Gimeno, Anglada Camarasa, Picasso, Dalí, etc. French Impressionists are also represented in this section, with works by Monet, Sisley, Degas, Pissarro, etc, as well as drawings by some of the greatest artists of that time, such as Chagall, Braque, Le Corbusier, Rouault, Miró, Dalí, Picasso, Clavé, Tàpies, etc.