The basilica of Montserrat began construction in the 16th century and began to be completely rebuilt in the year 1811, after being destroyed in the Peninsular War. In 1881 the Pope Leo XIII granted it the status of minor basilica. The facade was realized in 1901, work of Francisco de Paula del Villar y Carmona in Plateresque Revival style, with sculptural reliefs of Venanci and Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany.
After the Spanish Civil War a new façade of the church was built (between 1942 and 1968), the work of Francesc Folguera i Grassi and decorated with sculptural reliefs of Joan Rebull (St. Benedict, Proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary by Pius XII and St. George, with a representation of the monks who died during the Spanish Civil War), as well as the inscription Urbs Jerusalem Beata Dicta Pacis Visio (“Blessed city of Jerusalem, called the vision of peace”). At the foot of the frieze with the relief of St. George is sculpted the phrase “Catalonia will be Christian or it will not be”, attributed to the bishop Josep Torras i Bages, which has been assumed as a political motto of Catholic root.
This facade precedes the church proper, which is accessed through an atrium. Here are the 16th century sepulchres of Juan de Aragón y de Jonqueras, 2nd count of Ribagorza and Bernat II of Vilamarí. There are also several sculptures: St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph (1952), of Josep Clarà, and St. Benedict (1962), by Domènec Fita i Molat. There are also the paintings Visit of the Catholic Monarchs to Montserrat and Visit of Don John of Austria to Montserrat (1921) by Francesc Fornells-Pla.
The square that precedes the church (called del Abat Argeric, built in 18th century) is decorated with sgraffitos (1956) of Josep Obiols i Palau and the friar Benet Martínez, which represent the history of Montserrat and the main basilicas of the world. The square also houses various sculptures: St. Anthony Mary Claret (1954), by Rafael Solanic; John I of Aragon (1956) and St. Gregory the Great (1957), by Frederic Marès; and St. Pius X, by F. Bassas. On one side is the baptistery (1958), with a portal sculpted by Charles Collet, and inside a mosaic made by Santiago Padrós (1918-1971) and a drawing of the Baptism of Jesus by Josep Vila-Arrufat. Next to the baptistery there is a sculpture of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a work by Rafael Solanic..
The church is of a single nave, 68.32 meters long and 21.50 wide, with a height of 33.33 meters. It is supported by central columns, carved in wood by Josep Llimona i Bruguera, representing the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. At the head is the main altar, decorated with enamels (1928) of Montserrat Mainar, depicting various biblical scenes, such as The Last Supper, The Weddings of Cana and The Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. The 15th century cross on the altar is the work of Lorenzo Ghiberti. On the altar there is a shrine of octagonal form. In the chancel there are various paintings by Alexandre de Riquer, Joan Llimona, Joaquim Vancells, Dionís Baixeras and Lluís Graner.
Just above the main altar is located the room of the Virgin that is accessed after crossing a portal of alabaster (Porta Angèlica) in which are represented various biblical scenes, work of Enric Monjo (1954). The mosaics on the walls represent the Saints Mothers (left) and the Saints Vírgins (right), the work of the friar Benet Martínez. Next comes the Throne Room (1944-1954), the work of Francesc Folguera, decorated with paintings by Josep Obiols (Judit who Cuts Off Holofernes’s Head, Esther’s Wedding with the Persian King Asuero) and Carlo Maratta (Birth of Jesus). The Fountain of the Virgin is also found here, with reliefs of Charles Collet representing the miracles of Jesus.
The Throne of the Virgin is embossed silver, work of the goldsmith Ramon Sunyer, with two reliefs made by Alfons Serrahima and designed by Joaquim Ros i Bofarull that represent the Nativity and the Visitation, and an image of St. Michael by Josep Granyer. Here is a 12th century statue of the Virgin on which are placed some angels that hold the crown, the scepter and the lily of the Virgin, the work of Martí Llauradó, covered by a baldachin. The Sala del Cambril is a circular chapel with three apses, built between 1876 and 1884 by Villar i Carmona with the collaboration of his assistant, a young Antoni Gaudí. The vault is decorated by Joan Llimona (The Virgin Welcomes the Romeros) and the figures of angels and the sculpture of St. George are of Agapit Vallmitjana. The windows are of Antoni Rigalt i Blanch. The exit of the room is carried out by the Camí de l’Ave Maria, where it is customary to make offerings in the form of candles. Here stands out a statue of the Angel of the Annunciation by Apel•les Fenosa, as well as a maiolica ceramic depicting the Virgin, the work of Joan Guivernau.
Around the central nave there are several chapels. On the right are the Saint Peter chapel with the image of St. Peter by Josep Viladomat (1945); the St. Ignatius of Loyola chapel by Venanci Vallmitjana with a painting of the St. Ignaitious by Ramir Lorenzale (1893); the St. Martin of Tours chapel, work of Josep Llimona, with the images of St. Martin, St. Placidus and St. Maurus (1898); the St. Joseph Calasanz chapel with an altarpiece of Francesc Berenguer (1891); and that of St. Benedict with a painting of the founding saint of the Benedictine Order (1980) by Montserrat Gudiol.
On the left are the chapel of Santa Escolàstica, with sculptures (1886) by Enric Clarasó and Agapito Vallmitjana; the chapel of del Santíssim (1977), work of Josep Maria Subirachs, with a singular image of Christ realized in negative, where only the face, the hands and the feet are seen, with a light that illuminates the face to him; the Holy Family chapel, where the painting The Flight to Egypt, by Josep Cusachs (1904); the Santo Cristo chapel, with an image of Josep Llimona (1896); and the chapel of the Immaculada Concepció (1910) a Modernisme work by Josep Maria Pericas, with a stained glass window by Darius Vilàs.
The basilica was restored between 1991 and 1995 by Arcadi Pla i Masmiquel. In 2015 Sean Scully restyled Santa Cecilia Chapel which is next to the abbey.
The facade of the basilica of Montserrat has a stone bottom carved in ashlars, with the sculptural decoration superimposed, as well as silversque facades like the one of the University of Salamanca. The bottom is horizontal and divided into three vertical stripes. On each strip a door is opened with a sculptured eardrum and the strips are separated by Corinthian columns that support an entablature.; these columns are at a more advanced level than the doors, thus creating an undulating rhythm. The upper part of the facade is arranged vertically and does not occupy the full width of the facade, as in the lower part, but in the center. Here, first, are the figures of Jesus with the twelve apostles with individual canopies; above it is a large rose window, flanked by columns and reliefs, and on a higher level a clock. Finally, there is a cross. The entire facade, except for the background, which can be seen on either side of the upper part, is profusely decorated with reliefs, columns of different types, entablatures, vases and pinnacles.
The façade of the monastery of Montserrat overlooks Plaça de Santa Maria, the center of the whole of Montserrat, around which the main buildings (monastery, library, gothic cloister, museum, pilgrims’ offices) are distributed. The façade contributes to the monumental nature of the complex and centers the axis of the urban space with a rectangular, horizontal body that reproduces on the first floor the three semicircular arches that at the bottom give access to the atrium. On one side stands a square tower with square windows on each floor, except at the top, where large semicircular arch openings open. The façade is complemented by three reliefs by the sculptor Rebulldepicting Saint Benedict, the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary by Pope Pius XII and Saint George.
Of the old Gothic cloister, only two wings remain, which overlook the Plaza de Santa Maria. They are formed by two floors of galleries separated by a space framed by two ledges where small rosettes were opened. The first level is made up of pointed arches supported by figured capitals and stylized columns, grouped into four beams, which rest on a broken base only to allow access to the gallery’s interior in two places, near the angle. which form the two wings. The capitals represent subjects of the profane life, as well as the shields of Montserrat and the one of the construction abbot. The second floor consists of galleries of lowered semicircular arches supported by fine columns.
Outside are distributed several squares that serve to sort the group of buildings in the steep orography of the mountain. Santa Maria Square is the main one and gives access to the monastery; it is also the work of Puig i Cadafalch. From the square you can see the new facade of the monastery, built by Francesc Folguera with mountain stone. To the left you can see the remains of the old Gothic cloister.
The Abbey Oliba Square houses the buildings used to house pilgrims and tourists, with the so-called cells and a three-star hotel. The square is presided over by a bronze statue dedicated to the founder of the monastery, a 1933 work by the sculptor Manuel Xuclà.
Inside the basilica of Montserrat there are different sculptural elements, such as the tomb of Bernat de Vilamarí. It is a marble funeral monument that has, in the central body, the funeral vessel with the cover decorated with the lying figure of the deceased reclining on a pillow. It houses a semicircular arch with a bas-relief depicting the Virgin with the Infant and two angels on each side. Under the grave, separated by columns, are three female figures. Two large solid pillars flank this central body and in each are two pairs of niches that house female figures (saints with their attributes). The whole set is crowned by the figure of God flanked by two angels. All decorative and architectural elements are typical of 16th-century Renaissance sculpture.
The tomb of Don Juan de Aragon is a funeral complex made of Neapolitan marble that represents the figure of the deceased in the center of the composition, kneeling, hands together and with his knightly weapons, placed on his own grave.. This one is supported by two Atlanteans who simultaneously hold the family coat of arms. The whole set is framed by a semicircular arch that generates a short barrel vault supported by two Solomon columns with Corinthian capitals and two pillars with plant ornamentation resting on a baseboard decorated with a followed garland and angels. Between the capitals and the starting of the arc there is a frieze with cornices full of vegetal decoration. The arch generates the vault decorated with panels that mimic the marquetry, and houses the theme of the Epiphany.
Located inside the monastery church, in the room, there is the image of Our Lady of Montserrat. It is a Romanesque sculpture showing the Virgin holding the baby Jesus on her lap; both are crowned. The right hand of the Virgin carries the ball and with the left holds the child, who blesses with the right hand and with the other holds the pineapple. The image is 95 centimeters high by 35 centimeters wide. It is made of polychrome wood. “La Moreneta” is one of the most well-known and revered black virgins. The staircase is accessed by a staircase richly decorated with sculptures by Enric Monjo, mosaics and paintings by Josep Obiols.. The throne of Our Lady is a remarkable piece of silverware. At the back of the throne room is the so-called circular cabin, whose vault is decorated with paintings by Joan Llimona.
The new Montserrat Organ, inaugurated in 2010, is placed beneath the transept, on the left side of the basilica, where the choirs and celebrants leave, and replaces the old 1958 organ, which continues to be located on the the back of the basilica.
The pipe organ of the church of Montserrat dates from 1896 and was moved to the presbytery in 1957. This pipe organ is very deteriorated. A new pipe organ was inaugurated in 2010 and follows the design of the Catalan pipe organs that are located next to the Church. It is an important work of Catalan musical craftsmanship that places Montserrat at an international musical level. This pipe organ is designed by Albert Blancafort, built by Blancafort, orgueners de Montserrat, and financed by popular subscription and the social work of the Caixa de Penedes. The pipe organ is located on the side of the nave, as is traditional in Catalonia, offering a very good sound throughout the temple.
The cloister of the monastery is the work of the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1929). It is two floors, supported by stone columns. The lower floor communicates with the garden and has a fountain in its central area. On the walls of the cloister, the visitor can see old pieces, some of 10th century. The extensive garden includes the Chapel of Sant Iscle and Santa Victòria, Romanesque, access to the buildings of the novitiate and the choir and several sculptures, such as the marble of the “Good Shepherd” of Manolo Hugué or some of the sculptures that Josep de San Benet made in the 18th century for the bell tower of the monastery and that were never installed.
The refectory is from the 17th century and it was rebuilt in 1925 by Puig i Cadafalch. The central part has a mosaic that represents Christ, while in the opposite area the visitor can see a triptych with scenes from the life of St. Benedict.
The Virgin of Montserrat
According to legend, the first image of the Virgin of Montserrat was found by a shepherd boy in a cave in 880, after seeing a light on the mountain. When the bishop heard the news, he tried to move the image to Manresa, but could not do so because the statue was too heavy. The bishop interpreted it as the desire of the Virgin to remain in the place where he had been found, and ordered that the chapel of Santa Maria be built, which is the origin of the current monastery. The first historical news that has of the existence of the stature of the Virgin of Montserrat is of the year 1327, when it is mentioned in the “Red Book” of the abbey. In the 16th century, the carving passed from the old chapel to the basilica. In 1691, it was saved from the fire burning the high altar and was also protected and hidden during the French invasion in 1809. Throughout the nineteenth century, the image was displaced away from the monastery following the vicissitudes. policies of this century.
The Virgin Mary who is venerated today is a cut Romance of the twelfth century, wood of poplar. It represents the Virgin with the infant sitting on her lap and is about 95 centimeters tall. In his right hand he holds a sphere that symbolizes the universe; the infant Jesus has his right hand raised in a sign of blessing, while on the left he has a pineapple. Except for the face and hands of Mary and the infant Jesus, the image is painted gold. The Virgin, on the other hand, is black, which has earned her the popular nickname Moreneta. The blackening of the carving is thought to be due to the candle smoke which for centuries has been burning on his feet as a sign of veneration. The, Pope Leo XIII officially declared Our Lady of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia. He was also granted the privilege of having his own mass and craft. Its festival is celebrated 27 of April.
The abbey of Montserrat has two bell towers, the first being the so-called “abbot’s tower”, built on the right side of the main facade of the building, a tall and very imposing tower that does not have a bell. At the rear of the facade (around the atrium) is the bell tower of Santa Caterina, with an octagonal floor plan, which has a total of twelve bells, ten for liturgical use and two for hourly use.
The harmonic set was designed by Father Gregory Mª Estrada, a total of ten tuned bells in the tone of Fa Major, eight of which were manufactured in the 50’s of the 20th century. The set was completed in 2005 with the addition of the two remaining bells offered by the Vilaseca – Roca family.
The eight minor bells are hung on the bell tower windows and are almost invisible from the outside. The two majors are in a metal structure on the same tower. The latter are the second and sixth largest in Catalonia.
Above the tower are also the hourly bells. The whole set is perfectly audible from anywhere in the venue.
Montserrat Abbey of Santa Maria
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery located on the mountain of Montserrat, in the municipality of Monistrol de Montserrat (el Bages), at an altitude of 720 m above sea level. It is a symbol for Catalonia and has become a pilgrimage point for believers and a must-see for tourists. The current abbot is Josep Maria Soler i Canals.
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. The Virgin of Montserrat 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. The Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, one of the oldest presses in the world still running, with its first book published in 1499.
The monastic complex, together with the dependencies and the annexed services, conforms a small population center that, according to the census of 2006, had 68 inhabitants.
The whole of the buildings of the monastery of Montserrat are protected as a cultural asset of local interest. Mainly, they are two blocks of buildings: on the one hand, the basilica with the monastic rooms, and on the other, the buildings designed to serve the pilgrims and visitors. Other elements that make up the complex are the chapels that surround the central complex, the hermitages, the stations of the Viacrucis and the Mysteries, the monumental statues, the monuments to illustrious Catalans and the Marian bottoms.