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.
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.
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.
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.