Sunday, August 10, 2014

Monestir de Montserrat, Spain

The Monastery of Montserrat is home to a large basilica and the Virgin of Montserrat, a famous ancient statue found in the mountain caves.

The church has a large plaza that is lined with statues of saints.

Placa de Santa Maria, Montserrat

Sheltered statues on the plaza

Beyond the plaza is a small courtyard with the church entrance. The Neo-Renaissance styling of the 1900s facade matches the Renaissance original from 1592.

Church entrance

We tried to get into the church for the 1 p.m. performance by L'Escolania, the oldest boys' choir in Europe. They sing sacred hymns including the Salve Regina i Virolai, a hymn just for Montserrat. The church was jam packed and we couldn't pass the vestibule and could barely hear the singing.

View of the church from the vestibule

We went back outside to get in line to see the Virgin of Montserrat. It is a small wooden statue from long ago. The legend is that St. Luke (he of gospel writing fame) carved it and St. Peter brought it to Spain in A.D. 50. The statue was hidden in a local cave in the Middle Ages when the Moors invaded. Carbon dating tests on the statue indicate it was made in the 1100s. In 1881 she was declared the patron of Catalonia. The line to see that statue starts back in the courtyard. We were able to admire many of the decorations.

Pope Gregory

Various pilgrim routes to Compostella

A small carving over the doorway celebrating the anniversary of the patronage

The line leads into the south aisle of the church and through several chapels on that side. The children bailed out of the line because it was moving so slow. They went for the toilet, a snack, and a sit down in the church while I pressed on.

St. Martin of Tours altar

A view into the church's main altar

Stained glass of Mary and Joseph betrothed

After 40 minutes, I finally came to a staircase leading up to the statue.

Massive bas relief entrance to the stairs

A little more of the detail

Sts. Clair of Assisi and Hildegard of Bingen

A small dome at the top

After going around a few corners, I came up a last set of stairs to the statue itself. The statue is protected behind glass, but she holds a small wooden orb which pilgrims can touch.

Virgin of Montserrat

The way back out was relatively quick. I passed a few more interesting works of art. I found my family back in the courtyard. They had seen me by the statue (there's a small balcony looking back into the church) but I hadn't seen them.

Angelic medallion

Another angel (I think)

While the statue is impressive, I'm not sure it was worth the long wait. The children did light candles while I was in line, praying for a quick journey.

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