Montserrat is a Catalan word which means “serrated mountain”. It pertains to the unique rock formation of the mountain chain near Barcelona, Spain. While in Barcelona, I was lucky enough to visit the Our Lady of Montserrat Basilica which is nestled among these beautiful formations.
The Basilica was built and is still maintained by Benedictine monks. It was considerably damaged during the war with the French and was only repaired at the end of the 1800s.
The main attraction of the shrine is the Black Virgin of Montserrat. Also referred to as “La Moreneta” or “The little dark-skinned one,” it is a wooden statue supposedly carved by St. Luke (the Evangelist) and brought to Spain by St. Peter.
It was hidden from the Moors for hundreds of years. When re-discovered in 880AD, the Bishop of Manresa wanted to move it to Manresa. But the statue proved to be too heavy and so it remained where it was. Devotees believe that this was the will of the Black Virgin… to stay in Montserrat where she would be venerated by devotees.
I have always wanted to go to this shrine not only to pay tribute to the Black Virgin but to also pay homage to my patron saint, San Ignacio de Loyola.
Ignacio was the founder of the Society of Jesus or more popularly known as the Jesuits. Their many works include the founding of academic institutions all over the world, one of which is my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University. You could say that I was a beneficiary of Ignacio as I was a university scholar for the duration of my studies.
Before Ignacio became the saint that we now know, he was actually a regular guy–a soldier, in fact– and perhaps even more sinful than most. Born to a noble family, Ignacio led a shallow and materialistic life. But he had a change of heart when he was wounded in the Battle of Pamplona. While recuperating from his wounds, he read a couple of religious books that completely changed his life. So he gave up everything and left his home in search of spiritual direction. Somehow he ended up here in Montserrat.
Here at the Shrine, Ignacio offered his sword and his belongings to the Black Virgin, essentially giving up his material life.
The Basilica itself is quite a feast for the eyes. The Atrium, for instance, is replete with beautiful works of art including the image of St. Joseph sculpted by Spanish artist Josep Clara.
Consider your itinerary well when planning your holidays to Spain. You can have good balance of cultural, gastronomical and spiritual activities depending on the time of year. But whatever your plan is, don’t miss out on Montserrat. The sight of these beautiful mountains alone is well worth the trip.
Here are more images: