Santa Maria de Montserrat: Great Abbey on Mt. Montserrat

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain. The monastery was first established in the 11th century; however, it was destoyed during the Peninsular wars and was rebuilt between the 19th and 20th centuries. It still functions today and hosts over 70 monks.

Santa Maria de Montserrat

Mt. Montserrat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands and at the center of the most populated area of Catalonia. Accordingly, Santa Maria de Montserrat’s ideal location makes it Catalonia’s most significant religious place. Moreover, groups of young people from Barcelona and Catalonia make hikes at least once in their life-time to watch the sunrise from here.

Santa Maria de Montserrat
Montain od Montserrat
The church of Montserrat
detail from the façade

The museum inside the monastery is highly sophisticated and has three main sections. One part involves modern paintings of such artists as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas. Another part displays archeological and biblical objects from Egypt, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, and Holy Land. There is also a part for ancient paintings of artists like El Greco, Caravaggio, Luca Giordano, and Giambattista Tiepolo.

Santa Maria de Montserrat
inside the Basilica of Santa Maria abbey

Santa Maria de Montserrat is dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat who is the most popular saint in Catalonia.

According to the legend, the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat was found around 880. Later, it resulted in the cult of the Moreneta virgin. During Middle Ages, there were several hermitages on the mountain; however, Santa Maria hermitage became the most important of all thanks to the statue of the Virgin that was venerated since 880.

the virgin of Montserrat
the virgin of montserrat

The 15th- century cross found on the altar of Santa Maria De Montserrat was made by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the great Renaissance artist.

Santa Maria de Montserrat cross

The monastery survived several wars and conflicts in its history such as Napoleonic Wars and the Spanish Civil War.

During Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, the abbey was burned down twice in 1811 and 1812. Moroever, the troops of Napoleon sacked the monasterry and stole many of its treasures. As a result, the abbey was closed until restoration in 1844. In 1880, Montserrat celebrated 1000 years aniversary. On 11 September 1881 (also the Catalan national day), Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the Virgin of Montserrat as the patron of Catalonia. In the early 20th century, the Spanish Civil War brought another tragedy to abbey. During the suppression of Santa Maria de Montserrat, the Republican forces killed 22 monks, and several priests had to hide or leave the country. 

Santa Maria de Montserrat
Paco Calvino
inside the basilica of Montserrat

During the rule of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Santa Maria de Montserrat was regarded as a sanctuary for scholars, artists, and politicians. Since the 1940s, Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey has become a symbol of Catalan nationalism.

Santa Maria de Montserrat arches
Santa Maria de Montserrat