Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

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Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Monestir de Montserrat
Abbey of Montserrat 02.jpg
Abbey of Montserrat

Santa Maria de Montserrat (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈsantə məˈɾi.ə ðə munsəˈrat]) is a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain. It is notable for enshrining the image of the Virgin of Montserrat. The monastery was founded in the 10th century and still functions to this day, with over 70 monks.[1] The monastery has its historical origins in the hermitage of Santa Maria, which Count Guifré el Pelós gave to the Monastery of Ripoll in the year 888. There have always been roughly 80 monks in residence.


Monestir de Montserrat and Roca de St. Jaume

The monastery is 48 kilometres (30 mi) west of Barcelona, and can be reached by road, train or cable car. The abbey's train station, operated by FGC, is the terminus of a rack railway connecting with Monistrol, and two funicular railways, one connecting with Santa Cova (a shrine and chapel lower down the mountain) and the other connecting with the upper slopes of the mountain. At 1,236 metres (4,055 ft) above the valley floor, Montserrat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, and stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia. Montserrat's highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by a footpath from the top station of the Funicular de Sant Joan. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen, and on a clear day the island of Mallorca is visible.


L'Escolania inside the basilica

Montserrat, whose name means 'serrated mountain', is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia. It is Catalonia's most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia's favourite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica.

The basilica houses a museum with works of art by many prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso and more. The Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, one of the oldest presses in the world still running,[2][3] with its first book published in 1499.


At the beginning of the 19th century the abbey was twice burned down and sacked by Napoleon's troops, in 1811 and in 1812, and many of its treasures were lost. In 1835, the abbey was closed until restoration in 1844.

In 1880 Montserrat celebrated 1000 years of existence and on 11 September 1881, to coincide with the Catalan national day Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the Virgin of Montserrat patron of Catalonia.

Spanish Civil War
The abbey as seen from the Funicular de Sant Joan

During the Spanish Civil War the monastery was again closed and taken over by the Generalitat. The Spanish Civil War saw the violent suppression of the Abbey of Montserrat. Of the 278 priests and 583 religious men and women killed in Catalonia by Republican forces,[4] 22 were monks of the Abbey of Montserrat.[5] The Republican authorities, and particularly the authorities of the Generalitat de Catalunya, such as Lluís Companys, Ventura Gassol and Joan Casanovas tried to stop anticlerical violence and helped many priests and religious people to hide and leave the country.[6]

Franco era

During the rule of Francisco Franco, Santa Maria de Montserrat was seen as a sanctuary for scholars, artists, politicians and students; Franco's men were often waiting for wanted people a few miles down the road.[7]

From the 1940s onward, Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was often seen as a symbol of Catalan nationalism.[8] On 27 April 1947, a Mass was held to celebrate the Enthronement of the Virgin of Montserrat, and attended by over 100,000 people.[8] At the Mass, prayers were publicly said in the Catalan language, defying the government's language policies.[8]

In 1958 the main altar of the Basilica was consecrated and in 1968 the monastery's new facade was completed.

In December 1970, 300 Spanish artists and academics held a sit-in at the Abbey to protest against the death sentences meted out to 16 Basque ETA activists in Burgos; in response, the police sealed off the monastery.[9][10] The protesters were eventually removed from the monastery grounds, but their actions helped convince the Francoist government to commute the death sentences.[11]

In 2015 Sean Scully restyled Santa Cecilia Chapel which is next to the abbey.[12]

Notable abbots[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official Web site
  2. ^ La impremta a Montserrat. Manuel Llanas. Universitat de Vic, 2002.
  3. ^ Cinc-cents anys de Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat. Faulí, Josep, Francesc Xavier Altés i Aguiló & Josep Massot i Muntaner. Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, 2005.
  4. ^ Archdiocese of Barcelona website
  5. ^ "Don Quixote website, the Monastery of Montserrat". donQuijote. 
  6. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Holocaust, London, Harper Press, 2012.
  7. ^ MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible, p. 466. 
  8. ^ a b c Conversi, Daniele. The Basques, the Catalans, and Spain: Alternative Routes to Nationalist Mobilisation University of Nevada Press, 2000 ISBN 0874173620, (p 126-127).
  9. ^ "Basque Trial Protesters Sealed Off", Associated Press, in Press-Courier, Dec 14, 1970, (pg. 9).
  10. ^ Mcneill, Donald, Urban change and the European left: tales from the new Barcelona Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0415170621, (p. 142).
  11. ^ "After the Burgos Trials", Juan Marchial, Boston Globe, December 30, 1970 (p.8).
  12. ^ Sharp, Rob (June 30, 2015). "Sean Scully Fills a Spanish Monastery With Bursts of Color". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Santa Maria de Montserrat at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°35′35.54″N 1°50′13.70″E / 41.5932056°N 1.8371389°E / 41.5932056; 1.8371389