One of the most magnificent experiences I had in 2013 was when I visited the Montserrat monastery near Barcelona, Spain. Whether it was the azure beauty of the day or merely the exceptional architecture situated high up on the mountain, it was a moment in time where I look back fondly and think, “ah ha. Now that is a landscape that begs to be experienced again and again.”
Mother nature worked its mysterious ways with this mountain range that comprises many oddly formed peaks that almost appear to reach towards the heavens in praise. The yellow funicular that takes you to the monastery cozily nestled within the strange rock formations seems to be a motioning sun moving towards the mountain peak. We similarly reached the top at midday. However, the ride was by no means an easy one. Firstly, this so-called yellow sun was a boiling cooker of Spanish locals sweating droplets onto the shaky, round metal floor. The gaps of light between the metal are of no help to those with a fear of heights! Needless to say, I was scared for my safety. But the beauty of travel is that sometimes things are out of your hands; sometimes you just have to let go.
And I did. And when I reached the top it was magnificent. The lush greenery and calm grey of the rock formations situates you in a space so far-removed from the city. You cannot even think of a motorcar or the congested Barcelona metro system at rush hour. And what is more is that the stone building of the monastery contrasts so unusually with the steep grey mountain backdrop that it almost looks unreal in a sense – that it shouldn’t quite have been built in such an unusual location.
But I’m certainly glad this fantasy-like castle in the sky was built. And I’m glad I stepped inside, firstly to find some shade and secondly, to experience a profound sense of peace.
And even before one enters the monastery itself, you cannot help but marvel at the detailed façade with intricate sculptures and pillars. For me, this façade is a reason in itself to visit the area.
There was also something really humbling about standing in a queue with locals (and not tourists!) who all ventured up the mountain in the same way as you did, who were all crammed inside the yellow metal sun and who all emerged close to the peak in order to experience the black Virgin and pay their tributes, whether Christian or not.
As I neared the end of the queue to reach the black Virgin, I observed her in a most amazing glass display with many beautiful and shiny reliefs to both sides. Upon her lap was baby Jesus. I moved up the stairs to the podium, following the queue. Once at the top, directly in front of the glass, I stared into her eyes, touched the bit of exposed wood and said a prayer as thousands of pilgrims have done since the 12th century.
It was a moving experience. It is for this reason that I will leave out the photo of the Black Virgin. I hope you get to experience her presence and the wonder of Montserrat for yourself.