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Montserrat Mountain is located in the Bages region of Barcelona. The monastery of Montserrat is located approximately 700 meters (2,296 ft) above sea level and is known as the symbol of Catalonia. The monastery is a magical place where each year thousands of believers and curious tourists flock to admire the impressive spiritual sanctuary.

The monastery dates back to the Middle Age, around the year 1011. It is known, however, that the Monastery of Montserrat depending for several years on the Santa Maria Monastery in Ripoll. After the1082, the Monastery of Montserrat had its own abbot (title given to the head of a monastery) and therefore stopped depending on the abbot in Ripoll. Full independence was achieved on the 10th of March of 1410.

Montserrat originated from a hermitage (religious retreat) of the same name. It was the largest and most important hermitage in the mountainside due to its wooden Virgin Mary statue which the people had been venerating (act of honoring a saint) since 880. The hermitage eventually was converted into a monastery and began to receive alms and donations that allowed the sanctuary to grow into splendor.

In 1493 a monk from Montserrat accompanied Christopher Columbus to the New World, a trip that would ultimately serve to spread and perpetuate the worship of the Virgin of Montserrat.

The monastery of Montserrat has also survived hardship. In the 19th century it was set on fire on two occasions by Napoleonic troops. 1835 brought destruction and loss when the monastery was sacked and set on fire during the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal in Spain. As a result, the monastery lost the majority of its treasures but the restoration began again in 1844.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the monastery was emptied and used by the Generalitat government under President Companys. The revolutionary movements and religious persecutions in Catalonia led to the martyrdom of 23 religious figures related to the monastery. The abbot fled and took refuge in the nationalist part of Spain until the monastery was liberated in 1939.

Presently the monastery of Montserrat is governed by the Order of Saint Benedict. It is a one thousand year old monastic rule that maintains the motto “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work).

The current Benedictine community living in the monastery consists of about 80 monks, dedicated to the contemplation of life, forming relationships with God and the practice of prayer.

The complex of the Montserrat Monastery is formed by two different buildings with different functions. The basilica holds the monks’ housing units and the other complex has accommodations, restaurants, stores and other facilities to serve the pilgrims.

Next time you are in Barcelona, learn more about the Catalan spirit by visiting the Montserrat Monastery.

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