About 60 kilometres outside of Barcelona the landscape transforms into a breathtaking mountainous range containing astonishing arrays of serrated pink peaks with patches of lush green trees. From each angle of the wonderous Montserrat mountain the peaks bend and morph into shapes and creatures of your imagination; be it a baby elephant or a rabbit looking at the sky. Montserrat sprouts from the ground and towers high above the surrounding Catalan Pre-Coastal Range, which makes the sand-castle peaks easily distinguishable as it bears no resemblance to the surrounding landscape.
The name Montserrat literally means “serrated mountain” in Catalan, which describes the mountain’s peculiar rock formations that can be seen from miles away. It is composed of pink conglomerate sedimentary rock and large-scale layering. The main peaks of this rocky range are Sant Jeroni –the highest peak at 1, 236 metres –Montgrós at 1, 120 metres and Miranda de les Agulles at 903 metres.
Montserrat is Spain’s first National Park and a place of pilgrimage since 1025. It is well-known for its Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts a sanctuary for the Virgin of Montserrat. The origins of this sanctuary date back to the year 888 when the image of Our Lady of Montserrat, popularly known as La Moreneta (The Dark One in Catalan), was found. The Virgin of Montserrat is a 95-cm statue of a Black Madonna sitting on a golden throne wearing a crown and holding a golden orb in her left hand with a crowned black baby in her lap. She is a 12th-century Romanesque polychrome carving and one of Europe’s only Black Madonnas. Legend says that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue and thus had to build the monastery around her. She now sits atop an altar of gold at the back of the church on the mountaintop. Many people take the pilgrimage to visit the Virgin and kiss the statue. Montserrat, along with Sant Jordi, is the patron saint of Catalonia.
The Montserrat monastery is made up of about 80 monks who practice the Rule of Saint Benedict. The summit can be reached by funicular railways, which take people over the steepest parts of the mountain. Many people also hike the terrain and some even dare to climb the steep, serrated peaks. At the mountain’s summit, there is the Museum of Montserrat, Santa Cecília de Montserrat Church and art space, an interactive exhibition and Montserrat Library.
Montserrat is a natural Catalonian beauty and one of the most unique mountains in the world. It is no wonder that many Catalan females take the name of this majestic geological masterpiece.