Sunday, September 13, 2009


One of the places that we visited seemed to have a very special feeling. Montserrat is the highest peak in all of Catalonia and the Benedictine monks who built the monastery could feel a special spirit high in the cliffs.

We took a tram up to the top.

The cathedral is very famous because of the black Madonna who is the Virgin of Montserrat. She and St. George are considered the patron saints of Catalonia. The legend around this icon is that she was carved in Jerusalem during the 12th century and eventually was buried in the cliffs of Montserrat. The story says that the monks who were building the cathedral found her and because she couldn't be moved, decided to build the entire edifice around her. You can't even really see it in the picture but the statue is in the lighted window in the middle.

There are a few other black madonnas throughout Europe but this one by far is the most famous. She carries the Christ Child on her lap and is surrounded by gold.

I personally don't know very much about Catholic traditions, but I found this statue to be very intriguing. Although I don't believe in worshipping Saints or the Virgin Mary I found this statue amazingly beautiful. I even bought a medallion with her picture.
We waited in a long line in order to take our turn to peek at her and when we finally did I was really touched. Maybe it was because I was missing my little Rocky so much but when we were in that little room I started thinking about what it was that the statue was really representing. To me, it seemed a symbol of the beauty of motherhood.
In my life I have experienced a lot of really neat things, but they all pale in comparison to the enjoyment that I have found in being a mother. I also thought about how nice it is to have a mother. There is something very sacred about the opportunity to share that bond with a child.
So you can think I'm funny for carrying around a medallion with a symbol that comes from a religion that is not my own but I hope that whenever I look at it I will take a second to remember how blessed I am.

The cathedral was adorned with amazing pieces of craftsmanship inside and outside.
The twelve apostles stood above the door and each one carries a symbol of his job. Peter, for example, holds a set of keys which represent the priesthood. I guess that traditionally Judas carries a money purse because he sold his loyalty.

We spent the day exploring the cliffs and wandering along the many faith walk paths that surround the central structure.

During the reign of Franco Montserrat became a place of refuge for artists and students. It was a sanctuary where everyone was safe from the politics and danger of the day. Franco's men used to wait a few miles down the road to catch fugitives, but while they were on the mountain they were safe.

While we were hiking around and enjoying the natural beauty and traquility of the area I felt a special spirit.

Now, just to be sure that I don't have a completely smarmy post I will include the symbol of Montserrat which also just happens to look like a certain obscene gesture.

This mailbox was also very interesting and we used it to send a few postcards that didn't arrive until we'd been home about a week. Apparently the cliffs are great for views, but not for speedy delivery service.
We decided that we would walk down the path to the closest town where we could get the train. After looking at a map we figured it was about 2 kilometers to the bottom and should provide some amazing views. Somehow we got on the road and missed the unpaved path and ended up doing 12 kilometers instead. We ran about half of them because we didn't want to miss the last train that left at 6:30. Maybe it was because we were descending from a holy place but we miraculously made it. I swear, we can't do anything without having some sort of crazy adventure attached.

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