Spain’s greatest shrine of Catalonia: The Monastery of Montserrat

The Mountain of Montserrat in Spain – a unique complex with a monastery and the Black Madonna

Ancient Monastery and Mount Montserrat in Spain is a unique sight located in the outskirts of Barcelona.

The main relic of the temple is the Black Madonna – a statue with a baby, affectionately called La Morenata by the locals.

If you find yourself in Catalonia, do not miss the chance to see this mysterious place. The statue, according to legend, is a wish-granting one.

Before you go, it is worth getting some useful information about the complex.

History and legends

Almost all tourists who want to visit the cathedral, wonder what the name of Montserrat means and why they go there.

In translation, the name of the mountain range and the Benedictine monastery of the same name means “cut mountains”.

The complex got such a name because of the large number of jagged rocks. Over thousands of years of rain and wind have turned the mountains into bizarre sculptures, and now they look as if they were cut.

There is a more beautiful version as well. Some Catalans and visiting pilgrims believe that angels worked on the unusual shape of the mountain.

They were bored with the dull appearance, so the angels sawed the massif and decorated it with stone images.

The stone figures were named: the Finger of God, the Face of the Holy Virgin.

The construction of the Montserrat monastery, according to Wikipedia, began in the ninth century. At that time there were several hermitages, and by 1025 a temple was built. It is still active today.

Now in the monastery lives about a hundred monks. Their main duty is to receive pilgrims who constantly come to this religious center.

In their free time, the monks produce natural products (cottage cheese, honey, wine), as well as engage in creative work.

Territory of the Montserrat complex - photo

Where is the complex

Catholic shrine Monasterio de Montserrat is located at the address, which is so designated: Catalonia, Monistrol de Montserrat. The distance from the capital of Catalonia is 50 kilometers.

Instructions on how to get there can be found here. Before visiting, visit the official website of the cathedral:

The Black Madonna – the symbol of Montserrat

The Black Madonna of Montserrat is considered the symbol of the monastery and its main value.

According to legend, the statue was carved by St. Luke himself, and later it was transported to Spain.

During the Saracen attack on Europe, the relic was lost. In 890, the statue of Our Lady was accidentally found by shepherds in a cave, to which they were led by a mysterious light and chanting.

Later, the chapel of Santa Cova was built at this location.

Externally, the statue, carved from black poplar, is small – 95 cm.

There are three versions of why the Madonna is black:

  1. The Virgin Mary is blackened by the soot of numerous candles.
  2. The black color is the result of borrowing Egyptian heritage.
  3. The statue is coated with a special solution from drying, which gradually darkens.

Black Madonna in Spain

The sculpture of Our Lady has become a place of pilgrimage for women dreaming of a child. There is a legend that the patroness fulfills this wish.

But every year thousands of visitors come to the monastery with other requests (for example, for good luck in business).

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Judging by the fact that the special room is littered with gifts from grateful people, dreams do come true. It is no coincidence that many Spanish girls, especially in Catalonia, are named Montserrat.

Making a wish is very simple:

  1. Touch the ball that the Virgin Mary holds in her hand.
  2. Say a prayer to the Black Madonna.
  3. Ask for help in solving a problem.

True, there are always many pilgrims, and you will have to stand in line.

More about the monastery

During its long history, the monastery has been repeatedly destroyed during the wars. Especially strongly the building was damaged under Napoleon.

Nowadays, almost everything is rebuilt. It has everything that monks need for life and receiving visitors: a park, a cafe, a store, a museum.

There is a hotel for religious tourists.


The Basilica, or monastery church, is called the heart of Montserrat.

It keeps the image of the Black Virgin, holds services and performances of students of the singing school.

The size of the basilica is quite modest, but it is of great spiritual importance.

The first stone was laid in 1560. Since then it has been restored several times and is considered one of the best examples of modernism.

Montserrat Monastery - photo


The monastery building, built in the Gothic style, is the result of the work of various architects and artists.

The best masters, including Antoni Gaudi himself, worked on the exterior.

The abbey altar is especially beautiful.

The throne, on which the statue of the Madonna stands, is made of silver, and the money for the construction was collected by the parishioners.

The altar itself is made of rock and decorated with silver and enamel.

Monastery on the background of mountains - photo

Boys choir at the monastery

The singing of the local choir leaves no one indifferent. The boys who study at the local school of music sing very beautifully to the sounds of the organ.

The Ave Maria, known to every believer, makes a particularly strong impression.

The age of the students is from 9 to 14 years old, after which the child’s voice begins to break down.

Monastery Museum

Of particular interest to visitors is the monastery museum. Here are collected jewelry, archaeological finds and other valuable relics from around the world.

In the museum you can admire the paintings of El Greco and Caravaggio, see ancient sculptures, manuscripts, icons of Our Lady.

Admission to the museum for children under 14 years old is free, others pay 12 euros.

Museum hall in the Montserrat complex

Important monuments on the territory of the monastery

Every visitor to the monastery should take the “Way of the Drops”.

The first part of the road is called the “Alley of Masters”. On this section you will see monuments to prominent cultural figures.

Further along the path, see the creations dedicated to the Mother of God.

Viewpoints at the entrance to the monastery

If you don’t have time to go for long walks you can climb to one of the viewing platforms at the monastery’s entrance. The views of the surrounding nature are simply breathtaking.

There are beautiful panoramas from the observation deck near the restaurant and from the one next to the cable car.

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Masses in Montserrat

At least two varieties of Masses are held daily in the monastery. There is no charge for attendance.

In addition, those who wish to do so may go to confession.

The current schedule of services can be found on the official website of the basilica.

Montserrat Monastery chapel

Cost of visiting

Go to the famous cathedral can be free of charge. Pay only have to road to the monastery and back.

The costs will be approximately 50-60 euros, including a hearty lunch at a local cafe.

Working schedule of the shrine

The spiritual center is open for visits all year round.

From June to December the working hours of the temple is from 07-00 to 20-30.

The rest of the cathedral is closed an hour earlier.

Useful hints for tourists

In order to enjoy the tour, read the rules for visiting the unique monastery:

  1. It is forbidden to drink, smoke or speak loudly on the grounds.
  2. If you want to attend a mass, find out the schedule in advance. Usually masses for guests begin at 11 o’clock.
  3. Pets and visitors on bicycles are not allowed into the monastery.
  4. Since this is a sacred place, revealing attire is highly discouraged.
  5. Take containers with you to stock up on holy water.
  6. Try to arrive early or in the evening: from 11 to 3 o’clock the statue of the Virgin Mary is difficult to reach.
  7. If possible, avoid going to the monastery on Sunday. Many Catalans visit the basilica alone or with their families on this day, and it is especially crowded.
  8. It is cool in the mountains, so take warm clothes.
  9. When masses are going on in the monastery, it is not allowed to take pictures or make videos or go near the Madonna.

At the end of your trip, stop by the local store. There you can buy icons, lovely souvenirs and natural products produced by the monks.

Montserrat complex - photo

If you find yourself in the beautiful Catalan capital, take a chance to appreciate the beauty and unique atmosphere of the Montserrat complex.

It is impossible to remain indifferent to this holy place full of mysteries and legends.

It is calm and good, in addition, it is worth listening to the advice of the elder Simeon of Athos:

“Put your thoughts in order – and you will see the world with different eyes”.

Monastery of Montserrat in Spain

Montserrat Monastery in Spain

The Monastery of Montserrat in Spain is a spiritual symbol of Catalonia and a widely known pilgrimage center. The holy place is located at the foot of the mountains of Montserrat, which means “Cut Mountains”, from which it takes its name. The temple is located at an altitude of 725 meters above sea level. At 50 kilometers from it is located the city of Barcelona. Mountain range is 10 kilometers long of limestone cliffs attracts many tourists who come to Spain. Recently the area is considered a national park of Catalonia.

There are many mountain trails with signs and grows more than a half thousand species of plants. In 2003, a cable car and cog railroad were built as the mountains have become a major tourist attraction.

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The Montserrat Monastery is the abode of 79 monks whose job is to welcome pilgrims from all over the world. Spiritual people can stay here for a period of time, living in the cells or hotel.

Anyone can repent of their sins, participate in masses, and visit the statue of the Madonna. To do so, check the schedule in advance.

The area itself attracts the eye and makes you stay here as long as possible. The ornate mountains framing the monastery are a place of strength and simply a beautiful natural phenomenon. The structure blends in perfectly with the overall view with its intricate architecture and harmonious forms. Taking the funicular up into the mountains, one can admire all the beauty from the height of the beautiful mountains. Walking along the serpentine path, each turn opens up new views of the monastery and amazing scenery. Such a walk will take about an hour, but will give a lot of unforgettable impressions.

Montserrat Monastery in Spain


The first historical references to the Montserrat Monastery of Barcelona date back to 880. At that time there were four hermitages, one of them dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In 1025, a Romanesque monastery was erected on the site. The founder of the Jesuit order Loyola made a pilgrimage to the temple in 1522. A little later, the Renaissance cathedral with Gothic elements was built and consecrated in 1592. In 1610, the remains of two popes were brought here: Alexander VI and Calliste III.

Before Napoleon came to these lands, the temple knew no trouble, but it was completely destroyed by the invader. Now only the Gothic cloister and the Romanesque portal are the only surviving elements of the cathedral. After decades of neglect and ruin, the restoration of the temple began. The work took as much as 100 years. When the building was rebuilt, it became a symbol and a pillar of Catalonia, since it reflects the history of the people and of its land. It was here that marriages were performed in the once banned Catalan language.

Video tour of the Montserrat Monastery


Many leading sculptors and artists worked on the monastery. A lot of effort and time was spent on it. The stylistics of the building intertwines several motifs with a predominance of modernism. The altar is made of local rock and decorated with silver and enamel. The throne of the Madonna is made of silver with the people’s money. The chandeliers were donated by the communities of the state. In the altar chapel, the touches of Antonio Gaudi, who also worked on this project, are noticeable.

The chapel is a modest structure on the grounds of the monastery that seems unremarkable from the outside, but holds great value. The glass doors of the chapel have handles with the story of the Immaculate Conception and the universe attached to them. Around it are bronze panels and a statue of St. George. It all creates a coherent story from the Bible.

Montserrat Monastery in Spain

Black Madonna of Montserrat

At the shrine, the site where the cross of St. Michael and the Black Madonna are located is a must visit. At the Black Madonna of Montserrat travelers and pilgrims ask for the fulfillment of their cherished desires, overcoming for this thousands and even tens of thousands of miles. Among women know the belief that the Black Madonna helps childless become mothers. The statue measures 95 centimeters and is made of black poplar. It depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, dressed in golden robes, holding her baby son in her arms.

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Important information The Chapel of Our Lady of the Black Mother of God, where this amazing ancient statue is located, is accessible daily from 8:00 to 10:30, from 12 to 18:30 and from July 15 to September 30 from 19:15 to 20:00.

The statue of the Black Madonna was created by St. Luke according to legend and brought to Spain by St. Peter. In 718 the figure was hidden in the mountains of Montserrat from the Saracens in a cave. In 890 an unusual phenomenon occurred: the shepherds saw a glow in the cave and heard singing that sounded like an angel. Thus the statue of the Black Madonna was found. A chapel was soon built on this miraculous site and the cave was named “Santa Nova”. Pilgrimages to the unique statue were made by many famous people, including St. Ignatius Loyola. In 1881, the Madonna was canonized by Pope Leo XIII and has since become the patroness of Catalonia.

There are several hypotheses as to why the sculpture is in black: the use of the iconography of Isis and Horus, as well as the association with Mother Earth (the version of the Christian theologian Saint Ambrose). A more likely explanation is the old age of the wood. The wood tends to turn black over the years, especially if candles are regularly lit near it.

Montserrat Monastery in Spain

Montserrat Monastery Choir

It is ideal to get to this attraction during a service to hear the organ music and choir of the Montserrat Monastery Boys Choir. Every day at 1 p.m. the cathedral plays a hymn to the Virgin Mary performed by a choir of boys who study at the monastery’s music school. Those who have been here during the service cannot hide their admiration for the children’s choir, which sounds like the singing of angels.

Important information You can come to the worship service and listen to the choir of the Montserrat Monastery from Mon-Fri at 13:00, Mon-Fri at 18:45 and on Fri at 12:00 and 18:45.

Tours in Montserrat

The museum is located under the Saint Maria Square and was built by the architect Puig y Cadafalch. It houses an impressive collection of paintings: Caravaggio’s Saint Hieronymus, paintings by the Impressionists Degas, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, the modernist Rucignol, works by Nonel, Mir, Fortuny, Romero de Torres, Martí Alcina, Sorolla, Dali, Rouault, Picasso, Torres-García, Chancho, Tapies, Scully. The museum has exhibits not only of paintings, but also iconography of the Virgin Mary, archaeology, jewelry, and a collection of orthodox icons. The museum tour lasts 1.5 hours and costs 8 euros for an adult. Admission for children under 14 years is free.

St. Cecilia Monastery is a 5-minute drive from the main attraction and is also located in a picturesque place by the mountain. This church was built in the 11th century and is an example of Romanesque architecture. Here you can see ancient stained glass windows, frescoes, icons, paintings, plunging into the spirituality, art and history of the place. Excursions are paid: 7 euros for adults, 6 euros for seniors, 4 euros for children 8-16 years old, free of charge for children under 7 years old.

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Montserrat by helicopter with transfers from Barcelona to the heliport and back. Price from 310 euros per person if taken by a group of 3 or 5 people. The helicopter tour lasts 50 minutes and allows you to observe the beautiful mountains and the monastery from a bird’s eye view.

Or you can go to Montserrat in a balloon:

Rock climbing in the mountains of Montserrat for extreme and outdoor enthusiasts. The excursion with a specially trained guide will take half a day. For the visit you need clothes according to the season, sports shoes, water and a supply of food. Suitable for everyone with at least a minimum level of fitness.

To get comprehensive information about other monasteries in the country, and also to learn more about the cathedrals and churches of Barcelona, you can in our special section.

Montserrat Monastery in Spain

Tickets for Montserrat Convent

You can buy tickets for the monastery museum in advance or just before you travel. Plan your tour so that you have time to see all the interesting places.

You can buy a ticket to visit several sites, such as the basilica, the throne of the Black Madonna and the museum of Montserrat. The program includes an audiovisual show. Buy your ticket by clicking on the yellow button below.

There are tour tickets that include a transfer from Barcelona.

How to get to the monastery from Barcelona

The route is very popular, so there are several options to get to the attraction on your own.

In Catalonia there are suburban trains: the FGC from the station “Plaza España” (line R5) to the stations Montserrat – Aeri or Monistrol de Montserrat. In the first case, you have to get to the site by cable car, and in the second – by Cremallera (cogged railroad). The bus leaves once a day throughout the year directly to the monastery.

By car from Barcelona, take the Avinguda Diagonal, then the A-2 for about 5km to the N-II exit 5 (at Martorell, Lleida); the N-II is about 35km to the N-IIA exit 570 (signposted Monserrat, Manresa); Continue on the N-IIA for 600 m and turn right to the BV-111, take the BV-111 for approximately 1 km and then turn right to the Carretera del Bruc toward Manresa, take the Carretera del Bruc for 1.3 km, turn left to the Carretera de Monistor de Montserrat and continue approximately 8 km to the final stop.

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Cab transfers to Montserrat

Cabs are expensive in the city of Barcelona. A trip from the airport will cost at least 20 euros, in addition you have to pay about 3 euros for getting into the city. Within the city the trip will cost 30-35 euros, and out of the city every kilometer will be paid at a price of 1.17 euros.

For a large company (from 7 people) it will be convenient to order a transfer to the monastery. Form of search and order transfer from KiwiTaxi:

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