Montserrat is a multi-peaked rocky range located in Catalonia, famous all around the world due to its characteristic and unique shape. Over 3 million people (tourists and pilgrims) visit the mountain every year. It is located 50km away from Barcelona city, between the regions of Bages, Anoia, and El Baix Llobregat. It was declared Natural Park on 1987. It is 10km long by 5km wide, and reaches its maximum height at 1236 metres, with the Sant Jeroni peak.
This mountains are also a spiritual spot, as they host the monastery of Montserrat, dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat, the Catalan patroness, whose festival is celebrated every year by Catalans the 27th of April. This Virgin is popularly known as "la Moreneta" (which means something like "the Black” or “the Brunette"), due to the icon which is venerated nowadays, from the XII century. This woodcarving represents the mother of Jesussitting in a throne with the child Jesus in her lap. Both skins are dark, consequence of the exterior coat of varnish over time, and the smoke of the candles that devotees have been putting at the foot of the Virgin for centuries.
The Benedictine monastery offers a big architectural interest, like the chapel house, the Neo-Roman cloister and the refectory . There is also a library with almost 300.000 volumes of various subjects, a children's conservatory which is believed to be the oldest in Europe, and a museum with some artistic works of El Greco, Picasso and Dalí. The area has also other smaller churches and hermitages, although some are abandoned, like Santa Cecilia, Sant Benet, Sant Joan, or Sant Jeroni.
The first Cardium Pottery (or Impressed Ware) found in Catalonia, dating over 6.000 years, were found in Montserrat. A halo of mystery surrounds this mountain, and many legends remain over time. One of them tells that in the year 880, a group of young shepherds saw a strong light coming down from the sky accompanied by a beautiful celestial melody. This vision was repeated every Saturday for some weeks, as the rector of Olesa recorded, and the bishop of Manresa decided to organize a journey to the mountain to see what was going on. In one of the caves in Montserrat, which since then is known as the "Holly Cave", they found the Holly Image of the Virgin. They tried to transfer it to Manresa, but they were not able as it was very heavy. This fact was interpreted as the Virgin's wish/will to remain in that place, so they decided to build a chapel in situ, the Hermitage of Santa Maria. On 888, Count Guifré el Pilós granted the Hermitage of Santa Maria to the monastery of Ripoll. In 1025, the abbot of Ripoll and bishop of Vic founded, next to the Chapel, a new monastery that received numerous pilgrims and visitors, who little by little spread among the people the stories about the miracles made by the Virgin. Three centuries later, the monastery of Montserrat became an independent abbey, and became part of the Congregation of Valladolid between 1493 and 1835.
During the 16th and 18th centuries, the monastery of Montserrat became a cultural centre of reference, with great composers such as Cercerols, Casanovas, Soler and Sors. The Peninsular War in Spain (1811-1812) and the confiscation (1835) led to the destruction and abandonment of the monastery. In 1844 the restoration of the monastic life began, and in 1881 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the Virgin of Montserrat Patroness of Catalonia. Due to the Spanish Civil War, the Monastery was abandoned, although the Government of Catalonia was concerned to save it from destruction and looting. Even so during the war some monks were killed and the monastery served as a hospital for some time.
Nowadays, the Montserrat community consists of several dozen monks, who ensure that Montserrat remains as a meeting point and place of prayer. Due to the orography of this mountain, some sports such as climbing and excursions to the forests are organized to admire the diversity of both fauna and flora.