Montserrat was once a delta of the Tetis Sea. It was before the growth of the Pyrenees, before the actual Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe merged. But then the tectonic forces pushed the Iberian plate towards the north and the land started to compress, fold and grow towards the sky. The Pyrenees were created and other mountains appeared where there used to be sea, plains or deltas. Nowadays Catalonia stands on the land that once was under the water and in the center of the country; Montserrat is still the light that guides the Catalans. It is our sacred mountain and a must-see place when you visit Barcelona.
It is very easy to reach the base of Montserrat from Barcelona. You have multiple options. The best one is to take the FGC train in Plaça Espanya to Monistrol, and then use the funicular that reaches the Sanctuary. There are many combined tickets based on the places you want to visit in the mountain. Check them here.
Instead of the funicular you can also use the cable car from Monistrol village, or use a private car.
Last time we visited the mountain we went first towards the highest peak. It is possible to do it by walk directly from the sanctuary, but the first part is so steep and we were so lazy (sorry) that we decided to do this part by another funicular. The Sant Joan Funicular takes you from the Sanctuary level to the Sant Joan hermitage from where you have great views from Catalonia towards the east. But it is not the highest peak of the mountain, it is needed to walk for more than 1h to reach Sant Jeroni at 1236m.
When we arrived at Sant Jeroni we had a rest and had lunch while looking to the horizon. From this peak you can see almost all the country (Catalonia has a similar size as Switzerland) from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea passing by the west plains. And of course, all around you there is plenty of rocky formations that once were a delta. You can see the pebbles in the rocks and also some shells of sea animals at more than 1000 metres above sea level!
In the afternoon we descended towards the sanctuary and this time we didn’t take the Sant Joan Funicular. However, as we approached the Sanctuary it was getting steeper and we arrived exhausted. We needed then the help of the black Virgin: La Moreneta (The tanned lady).
The legend says…
Once upon a time two shepherds were grazing their sheep in the mountain when they saw a light inside a cave. They decided to explain this to the priest of Monistrol village. The Bishop of Vic decided it was needed to know what was happening inside that cave and went there with the two shepherds. When they arrived they saw the light and angelical voices singing. Inside the cave they found a statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus on his knees. The Bishop decided to take it to Manresa but when they arrived at the level of the actual Monastery they couldn’t do any step further. The Virgin was so heavy at that point that their interpretation was that she did want to stay in that place, Montserrat.
Nowadays you can see the Moreneta inside the monastery and this is a place full of pilgrims. But you can also go towards the Santa Cova, the cave where the Virgin was found by the two shepherds. It is just a 30 minutes walk or you can use another funicular, the Santa Cova Funicular. There is a small hermitage at that place nowadays and you can feel the peace and silence.
After visiting the Moreneta and feel the spirituality in every corner of the mountain, spotted with little churches, hermitages and rocky formations, we had the option to have a little rest inside one of the rooms of the monastery. We recommend the experience of sleeping one night in the monastery and be part of the monk’s rituals and dinner. However, do the reservations in advance. It is always fully booked!