Yesterday’s little ‘walkabout’ stood me in good stead this morning as I headed off to the subway, bought a 4-day pass (expensive!!!), and made my way to Placa Catalonia where helpful people got me to the ticket/tour office for the trip to Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery founded by expanding one of the existing hermitages that had been around since the late 800s. I had thought it was closer to Barcelona than it actually is — it took over an hour to get there — but the view was spectacular. Since the cog train is only part of the afternoon tour, I didn’t get to go on that — just as well when agoraphobic me saw the catwalk one has to use to get on and off the train.
Montserrat actually means “serrated mountain” and legend has it that God sent an angel (angels) down with a saw to carve the mountain. People are able to see all kinds of animals and objects in the various rock formations. I saw the camel and the elephant’s trunk but didn’t get pictures of them as they were seen from the bus but you can see how the mountain got its name from the pictures taken on arrival.
All of the buildings are made from stone carved out of the mountain and they are beautiful. First, there is an entrance with a long, upward walk to a large open courtyard. There is a hostel to the left for pilgrims who are walking the road to and a sculpture of San Jordy (Saint George) by Josep M. Subirach But very much in the style of Gaudi in a niche to the left at the top of the walkway. As you move forward, the eyes follow you; quite amazing. Off to the right are archways and benches and more carved statues in niches.
Next you enter an inner courtyard that is lined on either side with cells (for lack of a better word) reminiscent of the rooftop of the cathedral in The Sound of Music. If you enter on the right then look up and to your left, there is an awesome medieval painting on the wall and I didn’t see another one like it anywhere.
In the centre of the courtyard, there is a large circle in the beautiful marble floor that has a Latin inscription to do with baptism and people stand in the middle of it, one at a time (our guide said it should be with your shoes off but people weren’t doing that) to meditate. Just beyond the circle is the entrance to the basilica itself that has an amazing sculpture of Jesus and his 12 disciples.
Inside, the basilica was quite lovely but pictures didn’t turn out to well. We saw a wonderful audio-video presentation and museum with other videos, one which showed the monks’ (there are 60 of them now) activities at different times of the day and another featuring the boys choir with two tenors singing in the courtyard. (Montserrat has a boys’ school which forms their young choir; I bought one of their albums as well as the monks’ choir singing Gregorian chants.)
We had an amazing time and arrived back in Barcelona around 2:30. I used my “hop on, hop off” pass and took the eastern tour taking note of places I wanted to take photos of tomorrow. A bit too much walking for today and I did get lost coming back to the hotel. Finally was limping and hailed a cab — I knew I wasn’t far from the hotel but couldn’t walk another step.
After a shower, I wasn’t too hungry so ordered up a sandwich and some fruit for dinner! Ah-huh! Sandwich was a double-decker!