Montserrat: A Day to Remember
by James Portelli
The Camino Aragones is arguably the longest Camino on Spanish soil, starting either in Barcelona or in Montserrat and continuing for over 1,000 km to Santiago Compostela.
How To Get There
A Day to Remember
We arrived in Montserrat at about 10:00 a.m. and immediately boarded the cable car. There is the option to trek up for a couple of hours or so, but the cable car allows for a more efficient use of one’s time to cover as much as possible in Montserrat in one day. The cable car took us through the clouds and immersed us in the spectacular scenery of crisp blue sky, serrated mountaintops, and lush green woods all on a bed of cotton-white clouds.
Once at the top station of the cable car we proceeded to the chapel cove. The descent on a gravel trek to the cove and walk back up requires approximately 1 hour. The trail has imagery of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the rosary all along the brow of the mountain.
It is important to plan the day around events that have a specific start time. For example the boys’ choir the Basilica is at 1:00 p.m. If you need to sit down for this recital, be in the Basilica at least an hour before. The cost of securing a seat in the Basilica for the choir recital is the loss of an hour’s of sightseeing during which one might fit in the museum or an art exhibition. But, sitting or standing, the choir recital is a must.
The museum houses an impressive art collection including Caravaggio, Monet, Dali, El Greco and Picasso among many others. It also has an array of icons from the various Eastern Christian churches as well as archeological artifacts.
If visiting the shrine of the Black Madonna (known as the Throne of our Lady) is left to the end of the day, queues would have subsided substantially, and the time one saves can be spent visiting San Joan or the mountain top, for example. There is lot to see, but with careful planning, all can be accommodated in one rather full day.
The Basilica has stories of martyrs to share, including the monks killed by the Republicans during the Civil War and the Catalan scholars and artists who sought refuge in the Benedictine monastery when General Franco was in power.
We returned to Barcelona in the evening having savoured every minute of every hour of this day in Montserrat. Some visitors stayed back because Montserrat has to hotels / hotel apartments almost adjacent to St. Cecilia’s monastery for those wishing to spend the night there. The monks also share their abode with travelers; but only with those on a spiritual quest or retreat. Something to add to our list for the not distant future.
I thank James for this report on Montserrat, one of my favorite places in Spain, so far. I visited Montserrat in 2010 and was amazed by the dramatic serrated mountains, breathtaking views, history of the monastery, and of course, the Black Madonna. I also remember tasting a delicious herbal liquor made by the monks. I look forward to returning someday and doing the all-inclusive visit that James recommends. As a Camino pilgrim, I have a new sense of appreciation for this sacred destination.
For more information on Montserrat, visit:
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See you on the Camino Portugués May 21-30.