Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Day in Montserrat

Located high on an outcrop in the peculiarly shaped mountains west of Barcelona is the Monastery of Montserrat. You approach it along a very winding road which you can then look back on from the monastery car park.


There are several viewing platforms outside of the monastery itself which allow to you look up to it and back down the valley the way you have come. Here is Rich contemplating the view and the monastery itself

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The monastery houses a statue called the Black Madonna and is a popular site of pilgrimage for those coming to seek her blessing. It is quite a substantial complex now with its own post office and police station, as well as a large hotel servicing the pilgrims – not to mention the souvenir shops and cafés to service the tourists.


During the middle of the day the place was certainly filled with tourists. This shot of the courtyard outside the Basilica gives you an idea. We didn’t see a single monk throughout the day, although there did seem to be a group of nuns visiting.



We arrived in time to hear the boys’ choir sing for afternoon prayers. The Basilica was absolutely packed – and very humid – but beautifully decorated inside. Unfortunately the light level was rather low and I didn’t have my new tripod with me, so the photos I took were all too blurred to be interesting. Later, after I had nipped back down to the car to collect the tripod, they had turned the lighting down even lower so the only usable shot of the interior I have is this one:


which shows one of the many varied lamp holders which lined the nave illuminating some of the decoration on the adjacent pillars.

Around the monastery are a number of hermitages, presumably originally reached by further long and arduous climbs from the monastery itself, now there are two funicular railways taking you up and down the mountainside from the monastery to visit them.


The picture above is of the longer of the two funiculars, which takes up to the level of three Hermitages and from where you can get the most dramatic views of the monastery nestled on its ledge in the ravine.



We didn’t quite make it to any of the hermitages, although if we had had more time to spend there I would have liked the trek I think. This last one is a picture of the four of us on the route to the Hermitage de Sant Jeroni, the track which gives you the best views back down to the monastery.



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