Montserrat Natural Park, Catalonia, Spain

The Montserrat Natural Park protects part of the Montserrat Mountain. The Montserrat Natural Park (in Catalan Parc Natural de la Serra de Montserrat) is a Spanish protected natural space in the province of Barcelona, Catalonia, distributed between the regions of Anoia, Bages, Vallés Occidental and Bajo Llobregat. It was declared a natural park in 1987 to protect a natural environment and privileged heritage, and one of the most symbolic mountains for Catalans.

The Natural Park is managed by the Montserrat Mountain Board. This was created by the Decree-Law of October 16, 1950. The reasons for its establishment are based on the religious and cultural importance of the Monastery and the Sanctuary, and on the beauty and uniqueness of the mountain. The Board of Trustees consists of:

The Government of Catalonia.
The Town Councils of Bruc, Collbató, Monistrol de Montserrat and Marganell.
The County Councils of Anoia, Bages and Baix Llobregat.
The Provincial Councils of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.
The Central State Administration.
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat.
It became a Natural Park by Decree 59/87, January 29.

Its surface area is 3,630 ha (includes 1,981 ha of nature reserves) and a protection zone (ZP) of 4,039 ha.

Although the lyrical hymn of the Virolai states that:
“With the golden saw, the little angels saw those hills…”

The scientific explanation of the genesis of the Montserrat massif is quite different, and ultimately the atmospheric agents are responsible for the amazing molding of the Sierra. First of all, it is necessary to speak of a large marine gulf of shallow water, existing some 50 million years ago, where is now the Catalan Central Depression, and to which impetuous rivers drained from the slopes of a missing Catalan-Balearic massif, and large masses of pebbles were added. This happened at the beginning of the Tertiary era, and the pebbles were mixed with more pasty materials to form a dough.

When this Catalan-Balearic massif disappeared and the lands surrounding the Gulf collapsed in the midst of geological cataclysms, the relief of Montserrat emerged from the seabed with a great abruptness of forms – let’s say ten million years ago. – and their reliefs were at the mercy of winds, rains and frosts, turning them into this spectacular scenery we now admire. It would help, of course, the hardness of the emerging materials formed by the characteristic conglomerates (pebbles, sands and a hard calcareous cement), which the scientists call pudingues and which is popularly known as < pinyolenc >.

On the other hand, the fact that these puddings are much more resistant to erosion than the neighboring materials (clays, sandstones, schists…) also justifies, with tectonic movements, the singular reliefs of the mountain, reliefs that writer Manuel Marinelo, full of lyrical enthusiasm, branched out like this in 1927:
“form whimsical figures, representing the imagination large and enchanted giants, warriors guarding the castle immobile, whose custody is entrusted to them, ecstatic monks or procession of numerous and devoted pilgrims, and also high capitals of gothic cathedral, already fluttered with immense organ…”

He is not the first to make such baroque accolades, as the Baron of Maldà, on horseback in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, wrote:
“the entire length of the mountain of Montserrat, as several pyramidal castles at all points”

and even earlier, in 1600, the Jesuit Paul Gil wrote:
“The mountain of Montserrat is all of serrated rocks. It is the most beautiful part of Manresa in the world. Organs rocks appear.”

In spite of its obvious geographical unity and its singular geological and geomorphic features, the Montserrat massif belongs to the Catalan Prelitoral Range, which stretches between the Central and Prelitoral depressions of Catalonia. The massif is about 10 km long, between the gorge of Cairat where the river Llobregat runs, to the east, and the pass of Can Maçana, to the west, with a certain slope from southeast to northwest.

The width, between the valley of Marganell in the north and the plateau of Collbató-els Brucs, in the south is only about 5 km and the total perimeter of the massif reaches 25 km. As for the maximum altitude of the massif, it reaches the summit of Sant Jeroni (1,236 m) with an extraordinary panorama from the Pyrenees to the sea (even on days of exceptional visibility you can see Mallorca and, separated from it by the noon pass, in the Echoes, with 1,220 m. In fact, this Migdia pass, in the center of which the pointed Talaia rises, divides the mountain range into two almost equal parts: the eastern one with the area of Santa Magdalena and the mountain ranges of Sant Joan and les Paparres, and, separated for the narrowing of the Santa Maria stream, the area of Sant Salvador and the Flautats, including the beginning, the popular monolith of the Cavall Bernat; the other, the western, the zone of the Echoes, the Enchanted Friars and the a-filigree zone of the Needles the Needles, including the characteristic neck of Port. Here, on the southern foot of the Agulles, is the refuge Vicenç Barbé so frequented by climbers, while the large complex of the Benedictine monastery that presides over the Virgin of Montserrat, and which constitutes the authentic religious, historical, cultural and patriotic heart of the mountain, as well as the facilities that complement it, occupy a landing on the immediate left of the aforementioned stream of Santa Maria, in the easternmost part of the massif..

Mass value set
All the above values to which we must add the amazing natural relief, fauna and vegetation (despite the terrible fire of 16 to 20 August of 1986 and July 4 of 1994, led to the creation of the first, the in 1950, a Board of Montserrat, according to the Decree of January 29 of 1987 and Act 10 of July of 1989 and we expect this figure to the service of the new Board, offers some performances agreed with what the extraordinary Montserrat set demands and deserves.

As already interwoven in the preceding paragraphs, there are abundant place names in the mountain of Montserrat, which beat their reliefs to the point that all the needles and prominences all have their own name, sometimes of ancient origin and of uncertain meaning, but more often than not the climbers who have the massif one of their most spectacular and favorite fields of action, not only for the slim and spectacular nature of the reliefs, but also for the nobility and security provided by the rocam: the Cylinder, the Salamander, the Camel, the Cap de Mort, the Elephant, the Prenyada, the Mummy, the Nutcracker, the Radish, the Sentinel, the Cadireta, the Frigia Cap, the Marine Cap, etc.

The conglomerates of Montserrat have a very high calcareous component that would presuppose the existence of a large number of karst formations, but in fact, of the more than a hundred inventories, there are not even a dozen that have a certain caving interest. It is worth noting, however, the Collbató or Salnitre cave, observed by Gerard Joana i Vidal (1769-1841) in the early nineteenth century, despite the fact that it was already known before and later protagonist of narratives between lyrical and legendary like that of Víctor Balaguer i Cirera (1824-1901). The cave lit with electric light in 1930, is probably the most popular and important in Catalonia, and was re-enabled for tourism in 1985. allows a route of more than 500 m. Also worth noting is the Cave Freda, the Pouetons de les Agulles, with a depth of 123 m and a route of 377 m. and the well of Right Casta, among others of minors.

The vegetation
The mountain of Montserrat is, above all, a mountain of holm oaks, and despite its appearance as a rather barren, only rocky mountain, when you enter its paths you can see how clear the vegetation is in the landings and. Mostly, in their channels. Although the climate is quite Mediterranean, the evergreen holm oak (Querens ilex) provides a slightly wetter undergrowth, which allows it to proliferate shrubs and lianas, for example: Aladern (Rhamnus alaternus), Aryol (Smilax aspera), Marfull (Viburnum tinus), Mediterranean Lizard (Thyme implexa), Blada (Acer opalus), broad-leaved evergreen (Phillyrea latifolia), Galzeran (Ruscus aculeatus), Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), Ivy (Hedera helix), Mediterranean shrub (Arbutus unedo), etc., depending on the holm oaks lower parts of the mountain, up to 600-700 m in the shady, and almost up to 1,000 m in the sun (the so-called oak with ivory), or holm oaks above the height of 600 m, in the shady and above a calcareous substrate (holm oak wood) In this area to the north, there are communities of queen crown (Saxifraga callosa ssp. Catalaunica), not to mention the presence of small sesleria meadows (Sesleria sp.) on the cornices and shady landings.

Mountain holm oaks are almost non-existent in Montserrat, and only a few are found on the plateaus of decalcified soils between 800 and 1,200 m above sea level, as is the case in the area of Sant Jeroni. Shrubs here are quite scarce and are dominated by herbs such as, for example, the Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea), Betonica (Stachys officinalis), country or mountain tea (Veronica officinalis), and strawberry (Fragaria vesca).

Although a very exceptional can write down some rare representations of oak with boxwood (Buxo pubescentis-Quercetum) and Teixeda (Taxus baccata) with Sanicula (Sanicula europaea) and many other species such as hazel (Corylus hazelnut) and Marcolic (Lilium martagon).

The pine groves
In Montserrat there are also some pines favored by the hand of man in areas where the natural tree vegetation has disappeared; pine pine (Pinus halepensis), in dry and degraded land, and generally up to 500 or 600 m in height, and pine pine (Pinus nigra ssp, salzmannii), usually between 300 and 800 m. And even higher on the shady slopes. Here is, with this last note, only a tasting of a vegetation of the Montserrat with a great richness of species, but, for this very reason, it is impossible to detail here in detail. If as a result of human pressure and increasing habitat around the mountain the fauna, especially the large fauna, has disappeared, it has become even smaller after the severe fire of 1986. today the species that we can find are: generally Mediterranean, although they coexist in certain areas of the mountain range with some Central European tendencies.

Note among mammals pig wild boar (Sus scrofa), the squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), the marten (Martes foina), the genet (Genetta genetta), and twenty years ago Final Century XX, began introduction of wild goat (Capra pyrenaica); Among the reptiles, the common dragon (Tarentola mauritanica), the Iberian viper (Vipera latasti), the glassworm (Anguis fragilis), the lizard lizard (Psammodromus algirus), the ocellated lizard (Lacerta lepida)and the green snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), and among the amphibians few, perhaps some spotted frog (Pelodytes punctatus) and some salamander (Salamander salamander).

Birds visible to Montserrat are, for example, the ballester) (Apus melba), the rocker (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), and the rock- bear (Tichodroma muraria), while among forest birds the common thrush (Turdus philomelos), Bruel (Regulus ignicapilla), Trud (Columba palumbus), and Great Warbler (Sylvia borin). The presence of birds of prey is more than uncommon, although the Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) and the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) stand out.

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.

The bulk and the monastery
Needless to say, the extent to which the presence of the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat weighs on the whole massif and constitutes the most defining element, a center of pilgrimages and one of the most famous in the Catholic universe.

Existed first in century IX, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, but the foundation of the monastery takes place in century XI in the hands of the most brilliant representative of the Benedictine Order in Catalonia, the Abat Oliva, which governed the destinations of the monastery of Ripoll. Despite remaining elements of the Romanesque church that was built in the 12th century, the present-day abbey is basically a Renaissance construction, built in the 16th century, although the destruction of Napoleonic soldiers in 1811 damaged the primitive temple decoration. Marian The later restoration work, which lasted until the end of the20th century, they contributed from the decoration of historical type and samples of architectural Modernism, to the recovery of the ancient apses and the windows that gave birth to the basilica, to the most expressive examples of contemporary religious art. The church’s façade includes the church and monastery built by the architect Francesc Folguera in the mid-20th century, and the main facade of the temple, which is the neo-Plateresque work of Villar y Lozano, ends in 1901..

The monastery counts on valuable elements as it is the magnificent Library with more than 250,000 volumes and the museum set with samples of the prehistory of the bulk, a remarkable museum of the biblical East, a pinacoteca with works of the XV-XVIII centuries, and a museum of contemporary art. And it is necessary to mention the great cultural work of the monks of the community, whether in the field of letters or in the art. All the devotion and interest of the visitors to the Holy Mountain center the image of the Virgin presiding over the basilica, carved wood, polychrome and gilded, probably from the late 12th or early 13th centuries, and that everyone knows affectionately like the Moreneta, given the black color of the face and hands of the Virgin and also of the Infant Jesus, the color of which allows for very different opinions. The image occupies a beautiful silver altarpiece in the room, beautifully decorated, as are the steps leading to it.

It should be noted that, in the service of the cult of the Virgin, the Escolania is famous, whose origin is documented at least in 1307, although there are indications of its existence in much earlier dates. It is a group of schoolchildren (about 50) who reside in the same monastery and have the mission of participating in singing with the shrine cult. Listening to them every noon, singing the famous Virolai tribute to La Moreneta, is one of the spiritual pleasures that on their own would justify a visit to Montserrat.

The monastery and sanctuary are accompanied not only by a set of tourist facilities (hotels, restaurants, shops, etc.) but also by other complementary constructions, monuments, chapels and statues, with works of great sculptors and architects of between the late 19th and 20th centuries. In this regard, it is more advisable, among other things, the path to the Santa Cova, where tradition wants the image of the Virgin to be found.

Santa Cecilia and the Hermitages
There are some quize hermitages on the mountain of Montserrat. Formerly subject to the Abbot of Montserrat, all of them were abandoned by the hermits in 1811, fleeing the French invasion, and rebuilt again after the conflict. However, only a few again were inhabited, most of them permanently abandoned by 1822, which eventually led to the buildings deteriorating. Today, most of them still have only a few walls.

You can find more detailed information about the hermitages on the website of the Montserrat Natural Park.

Santa Cecilia
The old monsetir of Santa Cecília is located about four kilometers from the one of Montserrat, on the Can Maçana road. The church, basically the same built in the 10th century, is one of the purest examples of primitive Catalan Romanesque art, simple and naked. Its three apses, decorated with Lombardy arches, correspond to the three interior naves of hammered stone walls and whitewashed already originally. This construction is well embedded in the landscape forming a beautiful whole. The monastery was founded between 942 and 945 by Abbot Cesari; it never had too large a community and in 1539 it was definitively united to that of Montserrat. Santa Cecília is currently home to a mountain shelter.

Hermitage of San Juan
To get there, take the Sant Joan funicular. In the upper upper station you can enjoy a very suggestive perspective of the monastery.

Hermitage of the Holy Trinity
Only the remains of some wall, the cistern and the chapel of the Holy Christ are left. In the 17th century it had been extended with more rooms because, together with that of Sant Dimes, it had direct access to the monastery from 660 steps.

Hermitage of Sant Benet
It was built in 1536 to shorten between shrines. However, only a chapel-shaped building of a later construction is still used today as a mountain retreat.

Hermitage of Santa Magdalena
Remains of walls and cisterns are preserved.

Hermitage of San Antonio
Located on the so-called “Wall of the Devils, very close to the “Horse Bernat”.

The Viacrucis and the Santa Cave
The Via Crucis is an act of devotion that involves following, praying and meditating on fourteen crosses or stations, the episodes of the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) that Jesus did with the cross on his neck from the house of Pilate on Calvary, and which concludes with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.

For the Christian to make this journey materially, it is to express his desire to be identified with the same feelings of Christ Jesus and to hope, along with him, for the resurrection promised by God the Father to all those who believe in his Son, Jesus.

The Viacrucis
The Viacrucis path starts slightly beyond the Abat Oliba square, behind the Font del Portal, and reaches the Dolorosa chapel, near the Sant Miquel path. The route, calm and beautifully shaded, is one of the most beautiful places on the site and offers a nice view of the Sanctuary.

Between 1904 and 1919 the corresponding fourteen monumental stations were erected, which were completely destroyed in the war of 1936. Later, some new ones were built with sculptures by Margarida Sans Jordi and Francesc Juventeny; the rest are designed by Domènec Fita according to a very stylized model.

The Holy Cave
The road to Santa Cova is taken near the air station and follows a route of one and a half kilometers, set in the 17th century. Popular devotion helped financially the construction of fifteen sculptural groups corresponding to the mysteries of the rosary along the route, in which they worked, among others, Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch, Josep LLimona and the Vallmitjana brothers.

At the end of the route, half hung on the rock, is the Chapel where the legend places the find of the Image of the Virgin of Montserrat. The current building is essentially the same as the 17th century, rebuilt first from the damage it suffered in 1811 due to the French War, and after the damage caused by the 1994 fire and the collapse of the dome. September 1995. The building has rooms for the monk’s home, which houses the pilgrims, with a small, welcoming cloister. The small chapel, with a Greek cross and dome plan, is simple and is attached to a mountain cave, where there is a reproduction of the authentic image of the basilica. The whole place is calm and lonely.

Path of Degotalls
This excursion, lasting about 45 minutes, starts on the road towards Monistrol, past the Mirador dels Apostols building. Before starting the road, however, we have to stop on the terraces of the restaurants or the self-service, from where we can see a magnificent panorama of the Llobregat valley. However, if the day is clear, we will be able to see the Tibidabo and the sea in the east and the Pyrenees in the north. At the beginning of the path is a monument to Jacint Verdaguer, erected in 1931. The route, adorned with other sculptures and majolica evoking various Marian invocations, leads to the Degotalls, a rock formation that formerly spilled there. water.