A Monastery, A Madonna & A Mountain // Montserrat, Spain
(WARNING: This post will impact your bucket list.)
<end cheesy but true advisory>
Back in December while visiting Barcelona, Dan and I set a day aside to tour the monastery at Montserrat. The tour was actually our Christmas gift from my parents and a brilliant one at that (thanks, Mom!). An hour and change from Barcelona we were in another world.
The site of Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery was first mentioned in 888. For centuries it’s been a destination for pilgrimages as it houses the Black Madonna, patron saint of Catalonia mysteriously discovered in the mountainside centuries ago.
Before scooping out the scenery, we immediately ducked inside to meet this Black Madonna that we’d heard so much about. Some actually believe that this also the site of the Holy Grail (!).
Since our visit was midweek the wait to meet the Madonna wasn’t all that long. What I found to be remarkable is that the glass case actually opens, allowing you to touch her hand. It was certainly a special moment.
After strolling the interior courtyard and collecting our thoughts we made our way back to the entrance. But first, Dan quickly had to make a few papal gestures…of course.
After our exploring inside and meeting the Black Madonna we quickly made our way to the funicular that connects the monastary-level with footpaths above and below. We opted to first descend to explore a shrine in the mountainside seen here.
We read small bulletins depicting the history of the shrine as we wound our way across the mountainside. There is a lot of history here so I won’t attempt to get into the details. Although I’m not Catholic, the religious significance of the shrine and monastery are incredibly moving. Toss in the notion of stroll along beautiful, jagged cliffs overlooking a craggy valley below and you can imagine the experience.
After our visit to the shrine we quickly hopped the funicular and made our way to the top of the mountain. The semi-arid climate leaves huge boulders barren with only small shrubs and a handful of trees for vegetation. (Quite a stark contrast from the heavily forested Blue Ridge mountains that I grew up with.)
As you could have guessed, the views from above were MARVELOUS!
With the clock ticking on our tour, we descended back down to our drop off point and sipped coffee while we waited for our driver.
Across from us (with a steep valley in between) a biker oddly climbed to the top of rock sculpture, bike in hand, to the applause of many. I was alarmed and terrified for his safety… but appreciated the entertainment. Certainly he knew what he was doing… right?
Oh, did you think the day was over?
As part of our tour, after Montserrat we were driven to a nearby VINEYARD. (Cheering!) Our spunky guide provided a wonderful explanation of their unique bio-dynamic growing processes. Simply, it’s at organic as you can get and as a result their wine has zero sulfates (aka no hangovers!). Log it into memory folks – PARES BALTA wine is a game-changer.
After touring the cava (Spanish equivalent to champagne and potentially tastier) cellar we headed inside to their beautiful tasting room.
The pours were generous, the wine and cava superb, I was ohhh so happy!
As the sun began to set on the Catalonian countryside we reluctantly set down our glasses and made our way back to Barcelona.
Now… about that bucket list of yours, did Montserrat make the cut? 🙂