2 November 2012
An hour's drive north-west from Barcelona is the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat.
Perched on the hillside 2/3 the way up the 1200 metre mountain is the monastery complex. After a 10km drive up a narrow winding road from which we were afforded spectacular views we reached the crowded carpark; thankfully our coach was able to park near the entrance of the complex. The other options to reach the site are a cablecar or railway. We also passed some intrepid cyclists who were peddling up the long access road. I was happy to ride in comfort and drink in the incredible views on the way up.
The drawcard of this site is the Black Madonna that is housed in the monastery's ornate basilica. As well as being a tourist destination the monastery is a popular place of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world.
The entrepreneurial monks have turned their modest old monastery site into a tourist venue that boasts a hotel, retreat centre, gift shop, bottle shop, cafeteria, restaurant and a funicular railway to the top of the mountain. There is also a choir school for boys aged 9-14 that provides a choir for holy celebrations.
Each day at 1:00 pm a group of choristers gives a short recital of Gregorian chants in the Basilica. As I love sitting down activities and am partial to Gregorian chants sung with angel voices I settled myself in a pew and sent Mr Geniaus off to buy me a takeaway sandwich for lunch. Together with several hundreds other tourists and faithful I enjoyed the recital that unforunately lasted for only ten minutes.
|Choirboys in front of the Black Madonna|