Montserrat is a mountain top monastery in Catalonia, Spain situated approx 30 miles away from Barcelona, and is easily accessible by train, car and bus. It makes a perfect day trip if you are visiting Barcelona.
Situated atop an unusual rock mountain, it is very popular among Catalans, and Catholic pilgrims come from far and wide to see the Black Madonna.
It is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Black Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.
Montserrat is a multi-peaked rocky range mountain. The main peaks are Sant Jeroni (1,236 m), Montgrós (1,120 m) and Miranda de les Agulles (903 m). Montserrat's highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by a footpath from the top station of the Funicular de Sant Joan. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen, and on a clear day the island of Mallorca is visible.
The monastery is Catalonia's most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat.
How to get to Montserat from Barcelona:
Montserat is 48 kilometres (30 mi) west of Barcelona, and can be reached by road, train or cable car. It's easy to get there by yourself. You don't need a tour. The jouriny is abouth 1h and 30min by FGC train from Barcelona's Placa d'Espanya station.
By train + cable car:
Travelling from Barcelona, take FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat) (R5 Line) train from Plaça d'Espanya to Montserrat-Aeri. Trains run every hour, combined return adult ticket costs around 22€ (return to Barcelona). To get on top of the mountain the best ticket is the combined one for the train and cable car, Trans montserrat ticket that costs around 29,50€ (return to Barcelona)
You must decide in Barcelona itself whether you choose the cable car ticket or the funicular. Once bought, you cannot change your mind. Its best to opt for the cable car ticket. From Montserrat-Aeri, take the cable car up. This combined ticket also gives you free funiculuar train rides once you reach the destination, so by buying this ticket you get the fun of cable car as well as funicular rides. Remember to find out what time the last cable car will leave; you dont want to be left on the mountain top!
By train + Funicular:
Similarly to the previous option take the same FGC R5 Line train from Plaça d'Espanya, Barcelona but to the next stop: at Monistrol de Montserrat here you will change for the funicular railway (Cremallera de Montserrat). Combined return adult ticket costs around €20 (including the funicular to Montserrat Monastery). Total travel time is abouth 1h and 30min one way (Placa d'Espanya-Monserrat Monastery). Last funicular runs at 18:15 downhill.
A bit of background abouth Montserat:
- The Basilica houses a museum with works of art by many prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso and more. The Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, one of the oldest presses in the world still running, with its first book published in 1499.
- In 1880 Montserrat celebrated 1000 years of existence and on 11 September 1881, to coincide with the Catalan national day Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the Virgin of Montserrat patron of Catalonia.
- At the beginning of the 19th century the abbey was twice burned down and sacked by Napoleon's troops, in 1811 and in 1812, and many of its treasures were lost. In 1835, the abbey was closed until restoration in 1844.
- During the rule of Francisco Franco, Santa María de Montserrat Monastery was seen as a sanctuary for scholars, artists, politicians and students; Franco's men were often waiting for wanted people a few miles down the road to catch them.
- The Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) led to the abandonment of the monastery. However, the Government of Catalonia managed to save Montserrat from being destroyed.
- The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica.
- The basilica has a neo-Plateresque design (a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance) and was built in 1900. When one enters the basilica, one can see the statue of La Moreneta in the alcove above the altar. To see it close up, one has to go through the portico on the right side of the basilica.
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat, it is a statue of the Virgin Mary (black person) and infant Christ. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia's favourite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Deu de Montserrat.
It is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta ("The little dark-skinned one"). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church, it is a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century. Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it.
The statue's sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage. Lady of Montserrat
In 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia.
L'Escolania sings every day in the Basilica of Montserrat, often to a great affluence of pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. The midday Salve has become, over the past decades, the most visited daily act of the Sanctuary. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica.
After seeing the basilica, you can go out and visit the museum. It is a building across from the basilica and it is built underground, comprising of two stories. This was built by the architect Josep Puig I Cadafalch in 1929.
The marketplace also offers many delectable homemade goods sold by locals, including canned honey, pastries, preserves, cured meat and candy. Also what can be bought is 2 cheeses that is provided only in Montserrat.
Enjoy the fantastic views over the Catalan landscape
To fully complete your day you deffenetly hike around the peaks. Leave either from the monastery 2-3 hours to Sant Jeroni (via the cross of Sant Miquel), and back downhill through the shady valley or from the top of the Sant Joan funicular (1-2 hrs to top). The main trails are well marked, but still do pick up a map at the information desk first.
Hiking and climbing
The highest summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea-level. It is accessible by hiking trails which connect from the top entrance to the Sant Joan funicular, the monastery, or the base of the mountain.
The Cavall Bernat 1,111 meters (3,645 feet) is an important rock feature popular with climbers.
Places to eat at Montserrat are limited and expensive but of high quality and good meal choices (cafeteria style), so it's a great idea to bring your own lunch.
Easy excursion that allows us to visit the ruins of the ancient churches of San Juan, San Onofre and Santa Magdalena. During the tour we will pass through sunny and shady areas, with a wide variety of vegetation, both in composition and in form.
Montserat Basilica timetable:
From 7.30 am to 8.00 pm
Throne of Our Lady:
From 8.00 am to 10.30 am and from 12.00 pm to 6.15 pm
From 15 July to 30 September: also from 7.15 pm to 8.00 pm