The monastery, with its church and the various subsidiary buildings, is a little city on its own. The monastery complex proper is reached by way of the Plaza de la Cruz (Catalan Plaça de la Creu), which is flanked by a restaurant, souvenir shops, a post office, payphones and a bureau de change.
Address: Plaza de la Cruz, Spain
Opening hours: 6am-8pm
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Monument to Ramón Llull
The road ends at the extensive parking lots, near which is a large outlook terrace, with a modern monument to the Catalan poet and mystic Ramón Llull. The eight stages of the monument, in the form of a spiral, represent the eight stages of awareness (stone, flame, plant, animal, man, heaven, angel, God).
Museo (Museu de Montserrat)
Beyond the Plaza de la Cruz is a spacious square, the Plaza de Santa María (Catalan Plaça de Santa Maria). To the right of the broad central section leading to the church is the entrance to the modern part of the Museum, under the square, which contains works by 19th and 20th century Catalan painters, generally of no more than local importance. The older part of the Museum, to the left of the church, contains a small Egyptological collection, Neolithic material, Roman and Byzantine pottery and jewellery, coins, antique glassware and Jewish cult objects.
Opening hours: 10am-6pm; Sun: 9:30am-6pm; Sat: 9:30am-6pm
Always closed on: Catalunya Day - Spain (Sep 11)
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Closed during January 6 to 31.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
At the far end of the Plaza de Santa Maria is a gatehouse (1942-68), with five round-headed arches on the lower level and three on the upper level. Reliefs in the three upper arches depict (from left to right) St Benedict, the Assumption of the Virgin (following its definition by Pope Pius XII in 1950) and St George, patron saint of Catalonia. To the left of the gatehouse are remains of the old Gothic cloister (15th C.). Between the gatehouse and the church is a small inner courtyard, with a statue of St Benedict (1927), beside which is the entrance to the monastery (public not admitted). In the gatehouse, entered from the courtyard, is the baptismal chapel, its entrance decorated with 20th century reliefs.
The church, which contains the much revered image of the Virgin of Montserrat, dates from the 16th century, but underwent much renovation and alteration in the 19th and 20th centuries. The facade shows Renaissance forms, but the figures of Christ and the Apostles date only from around 1900.
There are two entrances to the church: the main doorway leads into the nave, while the one on the right gives direct access to the image of the Virgin (one-way traffic). The nave is 68m/223ft long, 21m/69ft wide and 33m/108ft high, and is rather dimly illuminated by the numerous candles lit by worshippers. The furnishings are modern.The exit from the church is in the north transept. Outside, on the rock face, are large numbers of ex-votos (among them wax models of parts of the body, offered in gratitude for a cure) and votive candles. Here too is the Sacred Spring (Catalan Mistica Font del Aigua de la Vida), with a colored majolica painting of the Virgin.
Virgin of Montserrat
Above the high altar is the image (Spanish Santa Imagen, Catalan Santa Imatge) of the Virgin of Montserrat, one of the most revered images in the whole of Spain. It is approached from the transepts by flights of steps with silver mountings. The image, of polychrome wood, dates from the 12th or 13th century. The face and hands are black with age: hence the Catalan name of the image, la Moreneta (moreno = "dark"). The legend is that the image was made by St Luke and brought to Spain by St Peter.
Way of the Cross
In the Plaça de l'Abat Oliva is the beginning of the Via Crucis, with fourteen large statuary groups set up between 1904 and 1919 and restored after the Civil War.
Virgen de la Soledad
At the end of the Way of the Cross is the chapel of the Virgen de la Soledad. At the 14th station a path goes off to the Ermita de San Miguel (Catalan Sant Miquel), a 19th Century chapel replacing a 10th century predecessor.
From the Plaça de la Creu, a road goes past the upper station of the cableway from the valley road to the Cueva Santa, with a 17th century chapel. In this "Sacred Cave" the image of the Virgin of Montserrat, hidden during the Moorish period, is said to have been rediscovered by shepherds.
In Plaça de la Creu is the lower station of the cableway to the Ermita de San Juan. Nearby, by the roadside, is a monument to the Catalan cellist Pau (Pablo) Casals.San Juan is one of the many hermitages round Montserrat, originally thirteen in number. From the upper station of the cableway there is a fine view of the monastery. There is a rewarding walk from here to San Jerónimo (Catalan Sant Jeroni).
A 680m/745yd long cableway (difference in height 535m/1,55ft), the oldest of its kind in Spain, runs up from the Manresa road to the Capilla de Sant Jeroni, from which it is a 5minute walk to the summit of Sant Jeroni, the highest peak in the Montserrat range.