Excursion to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat

Excursion to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat


We got to know and appreciate Barcelona, ​​Spain's second largest city, on several visits with cruise ships. Under Barcelona sights we present attractive destinations of the metropolis. So far, however, we have been missing the pilgrimage monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, located about 50 kilometers north of the city of over a million inhabitants. In October 2022 we visited while on a cruise with the Azamara Onwards Barcelona. We were finally able to visit the Benedictine abbey, which is located at an altitude of exactly 721 meters, “on our own”.

Montserrat Monastery

Montserrat Monastery


First some useful information

On “your own initiative” requires you to take a rental car or a line 5 train from Plaça d'Espanya station to Montserrat (direction Manresa). The trains run every hour; the frequency is increased to two departures during peak traffic times. For the outward and return journey we decide to take the train. Once in Montserrat, travelers use the cable car or the "Cremallera" cog railway to get up to the monastery.

Montserrat Monastery cable cars

Montserrat Monastery cable cars


Tickets can be bought in Barcelona at Plaça d'Espanya train station or online. It is important to decide in advance on one of the two ascent aids. Passengers who choose to take the cable car will exit the train at Aeri Montserrat station. Travelers who give priority to the rack railway will only disembark at Monistrol Montserrat station.

Those arriving by car should know that the monastery complex can be reached via a winding mountain road.

The Plaça d'Espanya underground station is connected to the metro network (red and green lines). In the case of this station, foreign tourists find it difficult to find access to the platform of regional train 5 coming from the metro. We solve this problem by exiting the train station, crossing the square and descending again into the catacombs of the train station. Tickets are sold at the counter and from machines. As far as the multilingual machines are concerned, English-speaking employees of the railway company support passengers who need help with the fare to be booked.

Drive to Montserrat

The journey time is one hour. After the start, the train travels underground for a long time. Then the countryside around Barcelona comes into view, and in the distance the mountains are already looming.

We leave the train at the "Monistrol de Montserrat" station and walk around the corner to the associated cable car station. The waiting time at the cable car is short. During the journey we enjoy the impressive view of the river valley through which we traveled by train and of the surrounding mountains.

Monistrol de Montserrat


Monistrol de Montserrat


River valley in front of Monistrol of Montserrat


River valley in front of Monistrol of Montserrat 


Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat

The monastery complex, located below the Montserrat ridge, presents itself to its visitors as an unexpectedly spacious building complex.

The Montserrat monastery complex


The Montserrat monastery complex


Montserrat monastery complex


Montserrat monastery complex 


In addition to the church facilities, there is also a hotel, shops, a cafeteria and a restaurant. Not to forget the cable car and cog railway mountain stations. A second cog railway, the "Funicular de Sant Joan" transports visitors to 970 meters below the Montserrat mountains. The end point of this railway is recognized as a starting point for hikes in the nature park. However, we did not come because of the spectacular mountain landscape but because of the basilica.

Funicular de Sant Joan


Funicular de Sant Joan


Montserrat Mountains - Roca de St Jaume


Montserrat Mountains - Roca de St Jaume 


Brief history of the monastery

In pre-Christian times, the Romans built a temple on the site of the monastery to worship the goddess Venus. In the year 888 AD it was first mentioned that a few years earlier hermit monks had built a monastery. The hermitage of Santa Maria was the nucleus of today's monastery. After the sculpture of the supposedly miraculous "Black Madonna" was discovered in the 12th century, the monastery became a place of pilgrimage. The monastery church was added in the 16th century. In the years 1809 and 1811 Napoleonic troops destroyed the monastery complex. The next crisis followed around twenty years later, when in 1835 the Spanish monasteries were nationalized and sold to private individuals. The measure did not last long. Already in 1844 the monks returned to Montserrat and rebuilt their monastery.

The monastery church

Visitors generally don't bother going up the hill because of the sprawling and somewhat random-looking monastery complex. Believers and tourists - including us - come because of the phenomenal monastery church, which Pope Leo XIII. awarded the rank of "Basilica minor" in 1881.

Montserrat Monastery - Access to the Basilica
Montserrat Monastery - Facade of the Basilica
Montserrat Monastery - Basilica facade detail
Montserrat Monastery - courtyard

The single-nave church is 70 meters long and almost 30 meters wide. Inside, the church has side chapels with galleries above them. Ribbed vaults span the nave. The main attraction of the basilica is the "Black Madonna", the patron saint of the Catalans, enthroned above the high altar. In her honor, around 13 to 00 choirboys from the monastery's own music school "Escolania de Montserrat" sing church chants from Monday to Saturday at 40pm. On Sundays and public holidays, the choir performs at 50am The music school is the oldest in Europe. It was first mentioned in a document in 12. Believers reach the Black Madonna via corridors in the galleries.

While tour groups are admitted to the church, we spend the waiting time before being admitted to the basilica together with dozens of people who have arrived individually waiting in an inner courtyard. As we enter the church, we see that it is packed with people awaiting the performance of the boys' choir. Apart from the crowd of visitors, the magnificent church is worth every visit from a cultural point of view.

Montserrat Monastery - Nave of the Basilica
Montserrat Monastery - nave and high altar
Montserrat Monastery - side chapels and gallery
Montserrat Monastery - in the center the Black Madonna

Montserrat Monastery Museum

In addition to archaeological and liturgical objects, the monastery museum features works of art by world-renowned masters. Representatives of old paintings include Caravaggio, El Greco, Giordano and Tiepolo. Representatives of modern painting from the 19th and 20th centuries include Dalí, Monet, Picasso and Pissarro, among many others.

Visiting the museum is chargeable.

Return to Barcelona and the Barri Gòtic

The Basilica and the Museum are the two highlights of any visit to Montserrat Monastery. We are not set up for hikes through the spectacular mountain landscape of the Montserrat massif. We take the Aeri cable car back down to the valley and board the next train that takes us back to Barcelona.

Aeri de Montserrat cable car station

Aeri de Montserrat cable car station


At the Plaça d'Espanya terminus, we leave the train and take the metro to Plaça de Catalunya station, the link between the old town and the new town. As with our previous visits, we enjoy the stay to see known and unknown corners of the old town and its trendy Barri Gòtic district.

Photo impressions Barri Gòtic

Barcelona - Placa de Catalunya
Placa de Catalunya - Hotel Iberostar
Barcelona - Carrer dels Arcs
Barcelona - Carrer dels Comtes
Barcelona - Generalitat - Placa de Sant Jaume
Barcelona - Passatge del Credit
Barcelona - Local in the Barri Gòtic
Gothic Quarter - Plaça de la Veronica
Barri Gotic - Carrer d'Avinyo
House fronts in the Barri Gòtic
Barcelona - Gothic Quarter
Barcelona - Barri Gòtic - near La Rambla

December 2022