Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

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Our visit to Montserrat was 37 miles from Barcelona where our ship had docked so a bus trip took us to the foot of the mountain range. Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain range in Catalonia, Spain. It is part of the Catalan Pre-coastal Range.

Our visit was to be to a famous old ninth century Benedictine Monastery which stands on a large serrated rock high in the mountains, a train ride to a height like I had never experienced before. The journey up the mountain was by an immaculately presented rack railway and took around 20 minutes to complete, although not to the summit it still was an awesome journey with tunnels cut through mountains and the train perched precariously feet from the edge, the bonus was the panoramic views of the valleys below.

I really don’t know quite what I expected but what we got I can only describe as a small township with shops, market stalls and even its own police station, the monastery itself was huge and overshadowed everything around being at the highest point. There are around one hundred monks who live at the Monastery, they follow the Order of St. Benedict and are linked to two other Monasteries – El Miracle and St Micheal of Cuixa. Their life is devoted to prayer and work. The Monks all live in a building that sits just to the left of the Basilica. It can be accessed from the Atrium of the Basilica, but it is not open to the public.

We were fortunate to arrive in time to see the first of only two High Mass boys choir performances a day which are open to the public, they are called L’Esclonia and were quite amazing. and are renowned around the world for the high standard of music that they produce. Even if you are not a religious person you will have the unique opportunity of seeing and hearing performances from 50 of the most talented young voices in Spain. The Boy’s Choir have two main daily performances: 13:00 – Salva and Virolai 18:45 – Salve montserratina … (But none in the month of July or during Christmas)

Montserrat Monastery has a long and fascinating history. It has existed through much of Spain’s turbulent history. A visit to Montserrat can really be enhanced by understanding a little about the history of the Order of Monks and the Monastery itself prior to a visit. We enjoyed our day and were pleased to have visited this amazing place so high in the mountains on such a warm and sunny day in October this year.

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