Art Travelogues

Basilica at Montserrat

The centerpiece of the Montserrat complex, if there can be said to be such a thing, is the basilica. First constructed in the 16th century, it anchors a Benedictine monastic community begun a thousand years ago, it’s gone through a series of destructions-and-rebuildings, at the hands of Napoleon’s troops and various waves of anarchists and anticlerics.

It’s full of beautiful details, like these octagonal pillars.

Alabaster carvings.

And an incredible assortment of lamps and lanterns, from all over Spain, that were donated during various renewals of the church.

The high point for many pilgrims is a visit to “La Moreneta,” or Our Lady of Montserrat, a 12th century carving of a black Madonna and child which legend says was found in a grotto on the mountain. We did the wait in line too see. It began at the back of the church, and snaked its way up to the front, up the stairs, and behind the altar. Look closely at the first image above, you’ll see a few people standing in front of her.

The Madonna is surrounded by a glass shield with a small hole through which one can touch the orb she’s holding. We heard that the hand has needed to be replaced a few times over the centuries, when it simply wore out.

There’s a chapel behind, where you can also see her.

Around to the side is the Way of the Water of Life (as best I can translate from the Catalan). This corridor between the rock face and the church has a fountain, and an unbelievable number of candles.

Standing here was like standing in front of an oven door, there were so many of them.

Josep Maria Subirachs is the sculptor of the “Passion” Façade at La Sagrada Familia, as well as of the major bronze doors there. Here, he’s contributed a chapel.

Now this was really haunting. I didn’t even notice it until E. called me back in and said, watch the face while you walk around the room. When you stand in the center, he’s looking at you.

But as you move from side-to-side, his head moves.

Well, there’s the illusion that his head moves. It’s ingenious and visionary at the same time.

This is a larger view of the entire bronze slab that is at the front. The feet, too, are carved in, but not shown here.

One of the monks began improvising on the beautiful pipe organ, on the tune of “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past.” You can hear that, as well as a walk-through of the face of Christ that follows you around the room, in the video below.

These same holy water fonts, made from giant oyster shells, are in La Sagrada Familia. A child on a school field trip washed his hands in one, and I said a prayer for him.

Tom

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he’s also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

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