Sunday, December 9, 2018

inSPIREd Sunday

Sally and Beth host inSPIREd Sunday!  

November 2018 - Barcelona Spain

I'll be posting Spanish churches in no particular order for the next few weeks.

The mountain Montserrat with the Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat is located about 45 km northwest of Barcelona.


The Benedictine Monk retreat at Montserrat offers you some of the most spectacular mountain views of Catalunya. Montserrat Monastery has been present on Montserrat Mountain in some form or other since the ninth century.

The mountain Montserrat has been of religious significance since pre-Christian time. Before Christ a temple to worship Venus was built by the Romans. In the first written mention of 888 the adoption of the construction by the first monastery of 880 AD was reported. They were hermit monks, who built various hermitages on the Montserrat. The monastery was founded by expanding the hermitage of Santa Maria 1025. Miracles were attributed to the in the 12th Century found Black Madonna. It is still the target of pilgrimages. A strong growth period of the monastery is due to those miracles.

The rugged outline of Mount Montserrat means that the construction of the Sanctuary is not uniform. Its structure is made up of two large blocks of buildings: the Basilica, together with Monastery buildings, and the buildings for tourists and pilgrims.

We were lucky as there was no lineup to touch the Black Madonna.


The stairway leading to the statue, plus the room and altar in which the statue sits are ornate, golden and pay tribute to the wonder that is the Virgin herself.

The Black Madonna herself sits on an incredibly ornate throne which is covered in Venetian mosaics. At either side of the Virgin you will spot nine silver lamps - these represent the eight dioceses of Catalunya and Montserrat. Above the Virgin's head there are Angels that were created by the sculptor Marti Llaurado.

According to Catholic tradition, the statue of the Black Virgin of Montserrat was carved by St. Luke around 50 AD and brought to Spain. It was later hidden from the Moors in a cave (Santa Cova, the Holy Grotto), where it was rediscovered in 880 AD.

According to the legend of the discovery, which was first recorded in the 13th century, the statue was discovered by shepherds. They saw a bright light and heard heavenly music that eventually led them to the grotto and the statue.

The Bishop of Manresa, present at the discovery, suggested that it be moved to Manresa, but the small statue was discovered to be so heavy it could not be lifted. Thus the Virgin had indicated her will to stay on Montserrat to be venerated there.

On leaving the altar of the Black Madonna, there is a chapel of the Image of the Mother of God. This chapel was completed in 1885 under the direction of Francesc de Paula del Villar i Lozano who was helped by a young Antoni Gaudi.

John got this photo looking back at the church from the Black Madonna.

The Ave Maria Path (Cami de l'Ave Maria) at Montserrat

On leaving the area where you have seen the Black Madonna you will exit via the Cami de l'Ave Maria. This area is a moving place where you will be given the opportunity to pay homage to the statue that you have just seen. Each candle that you will see has been lit as a prayer to the Virgin Mary.

The atrium that provides access to the church is from the eighteenth century, although it did undergo some alterations in the middle of the twentieth century. Of particular note are the series of scratch-work and sculptures of saints or kings connected with Montserrat in its combined role of Benedictine Monastery and Marian Shrine. Images which stand out are those of St. John the Baptist and Saint Joseph sculpted by Josep Clarà. In this atrium is the baptistry with its door which has a representation of the cycle of Church sacraments according to the catechism beginning with baptism.

Take in the facade, in 1900 - 1901 a new facade was added to the basilica. It is the work of Francesc de Paula del Villar I Carmona and carved by two brothers - Venanci and Agapit Vallmitjana.

Take a look down at the marbled black and white floor of the atrium. It takes inspiration from the floor of the Capitolium in Rome that was designed by Michelangelo. The inscriptions at the centre are Latin and refer to baptism.

Montserrat's church is a Gothic structure that also uses Renaissance shapes and traditionally Catalan architecture. It was severely damaged during Napoleon's war (1808 - 1814). This meant that it had to be reconstructed at the end of the 19th century. The central nave of the church is 58 metres long and 15 metres wide. It is 23 metres to the top of the dome of the church.

That bright light in the middle of the photo, you can just see two dots, those are two people touching the Black Madonna.

Around the edge of the church you will note lots of ornate hanging candles. These are representative of a Catalan style of jewellery-making from after the Spanish Civil War (1811 - 1812). They have all been donated by Catalan towns and associations. Collectively they are there to represent the constant presence of the people of Catalunya at the feet of St. Mary of Montserrat.

The Holy Sacrament chapel was the only side chapel to be sectioned off behind glass closed doors, and was modern and minimalistic.

It is a polished space of light soft browns with a smooth tiled floor, functionary pews that are beautiful in their practicality and some muted blue windows with no accompanying paintings. The crucifix above the altar is a sheet of beaten copper containing imprints of the stigmatic wounds, but no outline of the body or trace of the anatomy. Intriguingly, there is a bone cut into the altar– a saint’s relic perhaps?



This blog does not allow anonymous comments.