MAR to OCT daily 9:40-14, 14:35-19.
NOV to FEB Mon-Fri 10:10-14, 14:35-15:45, Sat, Sun, Hol 9:40-14, 14:35-18:15.
Cave Church: All year Mon-Fri 10:30-15:30, Sat, Sun, Hol 10:30-16:30.
Adults EUR 11.50, Children (4-13) EUR 6, Children (0-3) free, Seniors (65+) EUR 8.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 7.50, School Pupils EUR 4.50.
Cave Church: free.
|Guided tours:||self guided|
Abadia de Montserrat, 08199 Montserrat.
Porteria del Monestir, Tel: 938777765.
Information, Tel: 938777777.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|880||icon of Virgin Mary discovered in the cave, according to the legend.|
|888||First written mention of Montserrat.|
|945||document testifying the foundation of the monastery of St. Cecilia at Montserrat.|
|1239||first written mention of the legend.|
|25-MAR-1522||monastery visited by Ignatius of Loyola recovering from battle wounds, he laid down his military accoutrements before the image.|
|1691-1704||Camí de la Santa Cova built.|
|1896-1916||Rosary of Montserrat was built.|
|19-MAR-1997||inauguration of the restoration of the Holy Grotto.|
The Santa Cova de Montserrat (Holy Cave of Montserrat) is a cave church, a chapel built into a cave where the icon of the Virgin Mary was discovered.
According to legend, two young shepherds saw a bright light descend from heaven and stop at a certain point at the side of the mountain of Montserrat, while they heard a beautiful melody. This was on a Saturday evening in 880.
The appearance continued for several weeks, and so the boys showed it to the priest of Olesa de Montserrat, who alerted the Bishop of Manresa. An expedition was sent up on the mountain where they found a cave containing the icon of the Virgin Mary. The people tried to move the icon down to Manresa in a procession, but it became too heavy to carry. So they decided to leave it in the cave and build a chapel around the cave instead.
The cave is actually an overhanging cliff face in reddish limestone. The place is hard to reach, and was probably used to hide the icon during the Moorish invasions. The Middle Ages were the time of wonders and reliquaries, and soon the cave became a pilgrimage destination. As a result the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat was built at the mountainside a few hundred meters to the north.
Abadia de Montserrat is located high above the valley, and may be reached by an incline railway or an cable car (Aeri). There is also a road, but the number of parking lots is extremely restricted.
From the abbey the pilgrim can reach the cave church on the Camí de la Santa Cova or Camino de la Santa Cueva, a narrow path which was built into the cliff face between 1691 and 1704, under the patronage of Gertrudis de Camporrells, Marquise de Tamarit. There is no easier way to the cave, and the walk takes about half an hour (length 1.5km). Along the path are fifteen sculptural groups corresponding to the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. The sculptures were created by famous artists like Antonio Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch, Josep LLimona, and the Vallmitjana brothers. The Rosary of Montserrat was built between 1896 and 1916.
The cave is today inside a cave church, which was erected in the 17th century. It was damaged twice since then, but it was both times reconstructed. The first time was during the Napoleonic Wars in 1811, the second time was a fire in 1994. The buildings include a cave church, a small cloister, and some buildings which are used by the monk who welcomes pilgrims here. The cave church today contains a copy of the image of the Virgin Mary, while the original is in the Basilica of the nearby monastery. It is called Mare de Déu de Montserrat, also Our Lady of Montserrat or the Virgin of Montserrat. This object is called an icon or image, but actually it is a rather small statue of the Madonna and Child. It is 95cm high figurine sitting frontal with the child on her knees, a pose is called Throne of Wisdom. She has an orb of the earth in her right hand and the child has the right hand raised in a formalized Eastern blessing.
A special thing with the statue is the black colour. There are numerous "black Madonnas" which are quite famous, the reliquary statue of Sainte-Foy in Conques in southern France is one of them and may have been a model. The black colour is either a result of a chemical reaction caused by a varnish used as paint sealant, or by the prolonged exposure to candle smoke. It may have been a lighter tone before, but still a dark skin, and some people obviously had a problem with this fact. It once bore the inscription Nigra Sum Sed Formosa (I am Black, but Beautiful). The familiar Catalan name is La Moreneta (the little dark one), rather a belittlement and not meant disrespectfully.