You’ll head to Montserrat through the main streets of Barcelona, passing the enormous Catalunya Square, the heart of the city, known for its fountains and statues. Drive along the elegant Passeig de Gracia with its wrought-iron street lamps and fine array of Modernist buildings, including Gaudi’s Casa Mila, with its arches and spiral chimneys.
It is about an hour’s drive to Montserrat, an unusual multi-peak mountain topped by pinnacles that look like fingers reaching for the sky offering stunning views of Catalunya. According to legend, villagers discovered a statue of the Madonna in a grotto a millennia ago. And as a result, it became a pilgrimage site, and still draws many of the faithful to venerate the image, which now resides in a grand basilica. Over the centuries the image has darkened by the smoke of millions of candles and she has come to be known as the Black Virgin.
The Benedictine community, now numbering some 80 monks, has served the shrine for almost a thousand years. They are dedicated to a life of prayer, work and welcoming pilgrims. You’ll visit the sanctuary, and will have free time to explore on your own, visit the grotto, or take photos of the surrounding landscape. There are souvenir shops available, as well as food outlets.