But one does not need to be Catholic or even Catalan to enjoy all the monastery has to offer - the basilica, a choir school, a small museum which houses works by El Greco, Caravaggio, Monet, Picasso and Dalí, and of course, the Sant Joan funicular which takes you up to breathtaking views and the starting point of numerous hiking paths.
The monastery cathedral is home to La Moreneta (or "little dark one") – The Virgin of Montserrat, a venerated statue of the Virgin Mary, patroness of Catalunya and one of several ¨Black Madonnas¨ located throughout Europe. During Franco's brutal dictatorship, where any expression of Catalan culture was suppressed and the language for a time was outright banned, the monastery became a place of resistance and refuge for scholars, artists, politicians, and students, as well as a hiding place for artworks, books, and other cultural artifacts important to Catalunya. For centuries, Montserrat has been a strongly beating spiritual and cultural heart of the Catalan people.
La Moreneta - The statue was originally lighter, but has darkened over the centuries, due to smoke from candles, humidity, or the original varnish darkening with age.
History and Legends
There are some 15 chapels, former hermitages, dotted over Mount Montserrat. formerly subject to the dioceses of Barcelona or Vic, they were all abandoned when the hermits were forced to flee before the Napoleon's invasion in 1811. Though they were later rebuilt, few were inhabited once more and most were finally abandoned in 1822, after which the buildings began to deteriorate. All that remains now, in some cases, are the walls.
With the conquests of the Catalon-Aragonese crown, Montserrat became famous worldwide: Churches were built in honor of the Virgin from Montserrat in Mexico, Chile and Peru. In the colonies, islands and settlements were named after her. After the almost complete devastation of the monastery by Napoleon in 1811, Montserrat regained its former significance only during the Catalonian Renaixença and its rebuilding at the end of the nineteenth century. Come visit us soon at Can Serrat for artistic inspiration and to see for yourself this special, magical, heart of Catalunya!