The Dark Lady Of The Serrated Mountains

The folklore is reason enough to visit the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat near Barcelona. Like the fantastic claims of this being the ‘Castle of Munsalvaesche’ where the Holy Grail is believed to be hidden! Or those of miraclulous occurences in 890 AD, that led shepherd boys to the ‘La Moreneta’ (the little dark skinned one), a statue of the Black Virgin with baby Jesus!

Santa Maria de Montserrat – Catalonia, Spain

But the awe inspiring, jagged surface (hence the name) of this mountain range and the breathtaking vistas all around, weave their magic even before you reach that hallowed space! It takes an hour long train journey (on the R5 line from estacion Espanya in Barcelona) and a short aerial cable car ride up from the Aeri de Montserrat station (or – for the faint of heart – a slightly longer cremallera train from the next stop), to get to the monastery, perched a little over half way up the mountain. The rush of pilgrims and tourists apparently ruin the experience a bit, but we lucked out (again!!) and had it nearly to ourselves, early on this August morning.

The serrated mountains of Montserrat

A funicular goes down to the the sacred cave where the La Moreneta was discovered. Another climbs up about 800 feet, from where one can hike to the crest, and succumb to the glory of the Catalonian landscape!

The present statue of the Black Virgin of Catalonia, housed in a glass enclosure inside the Abbey, is a 12th century Romanesque reproduction and the jury is out, about why it is black. The most commonly accepted reason is that the wood sculpture has darkened over centuries from the soot of innumerable candles. Paying homage to the unbroken chain of tradition through the ages, we caressed the Madonna’s golden orb and  listened to the wonderous boy’s choir – L’Escolania – sing hymns in praise of their patron saint…….

Rosa d’abril, morena de la serra,
de Montserrat estel,
il’luminau la catalana terra;
guiau-nos cap al cel

(April Rose, dark lady of the mountain chain,
Star of Montserrat,
illuminate the Catalan land;
guide us to heaven.)


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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

58 thoughts on “The Dark Lady Of The Serrated Mountains

  1. What a great post! I guess R and I were lucky too – not a soul in sight, but it was the end of December, the snow thick on the ground – everything a bit grim with frozen footed cold. Your photograph of the Lady is just great – warm and serene, and very touchable. As always, the next best thing to being there … 🙂

    1. Appreciate your kind words!
      We go to great lengths to avoid crowds! Ironic, considering we come from India! That said, it is the crowds that add colour and atmosphere sometimes. We went to a local temple yesterday to click some pictures and it was R’s idea to go very early to avoid the heat and crowds. We achieved that, but there were no interesting photo ops either 🙂

      1. Gotcha! But there’s a difference between the heaving masses participating in temple rituals, and a couple of bus load of tourists following their umbrella wielding guides strangling a handful of unintelligible languages. And they’re always standing up clue, right in front of the pictures!
        Sorry you missed the photo op:)

        1. No sweat! We ended up eating breakfast in a very traditional ‘mess’ near the temple that was an experience in itself!

  2. somewhere i would really like to go … my friend wendy takes a pilgrimage tour there at the end of september but i wont make it this year … thank you for the wonderful photos 🙂

  3. Madhu, your photographs are always phenomenal. I look at those beautiful rocks, and it amazes me that plant life manages to take root in the crevices of their textures … awesome. Too, the perspectives on your building takes are marvelous. I always enjoy stopping by to see your posts because I know I will not be disappointed. Great post, once again. 🙂

  4. What amazing wonders are created by the forces of nature – these mountains are an incredible display of what the elements can do. And the monastery an equally incredible display of that man can do. Beautiful photos!

    1. Thank you Carol! I do not always feel in religious places, the reverence, the presence of God, I feel when I look at natural wonders such as these.

  5. Hi Madhu, now I have to put another destination on my to-go list. This place seems really different. On the last trip to Spain, we didn’t get to Catalan. These photos really capture the scale of the mountains, which is difficult to do. Another great post.

    1. Thank you so much Naomi! We didn’t get to Catalan on our first trip either. It is rather out of the way. Do try and include the Basque region when you do go. We just managed a day-trip to Bilbao and regretted not having spared a few days for that area.

  6. Hi,
    What a magnificent looking place, just unreal, I would love to explore this. Your photos are fantastic. 🙂

  7. I can imagine how they secured it like that. Not just how it’s made of but the importance and history that goes with it.

    Wow! train, cable car and a climb. I love it when there are various ways and activities before getting through your destination. Although often painstaking, at least there’s it’s something to talk about.

  8. Nice photos! I’m dying to go there, I can’t believe I haven’t been yet. Your post is making me want to go even more!

  9. Oh, Madhu, we visited here about 10 years ago (is it that long already?!) only we arrived by bus. Poor soul in front of us had smoke pouring out the back end of his car before he got to the top. We enjoyed our visit there and the great views over the Lobregat River and valley.

  10. Love the shots, Madhu!
    Those stories about miraculous appearances of the Virgin are always fascinating. But I wonder how many monasteries and churches are claimed to house the Holy Grail. Even in Spain, we went to at least a couple of churches that legend says keep the sacred item. 🙂

    1. Oh I am sure there are hundreds across the world! The legends are also undecided about what the Holy Grail really is! Appreciate your checking this out Tita 🙂

  11. So that’s how Montserrat got its name. I wonder if the other Montserrat in the Caribbean also owed its name to such jagged mountain. By the way, it’s so interesting how the story of the holy grail inspired so many people from different regions, including the ones in Catalonia. Beautiful place as well!

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