Montserrat

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Montserrat is a rocky mountain, just an hour away from Barcelona by train, which has such a particular significance for the locals in Catalunya and it’s capital; Barcelona.

It is 1.236,4 meter high natural mountain composed by multiple peaks with weird shapes and formations that gives it its singularity, with it’s highest peak named Sant Jeroni.  This is the reason why it is called Montserrat, which means serrated mountain in catalan, the native language spoken in Catalunya. The name of this moutain is also used as first name for girls, even though it has been used also for males up to the XIX century.

This curious bunch of rocky peaks are surrounded by the countryside dedicated to winery and catalan champagne production. As you can imagine, then, these greenless peaks of the mountain are surrounded by dense vegetation and never-ending fields dyed in green and brown, impressive to see from far, on your way to Montserrat by train.

Due to it’s vast, Montserrat can be seen from across Catalunya on clear days. It was declared national park in 1987, to ensure its preservation.

This humongous pice of rock has the consideration of one of the top natural wonders shrouded in legend, having a lot to do with religion and divine inspiration for artists throughout centuries.

Beyond it’s outward appearance, Montserrat gives shelter to an important monastery, that holds La Moreneta, patroness of Catalunya, very related to spirituality.

The benedictine monks’ monastery, really worth visiting, was renewed in 1925 by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, matches with the colours and particularity of the place, fitting in at great perfection. The religious life still has a strong present value, due to the remarkable work the monks still take care of, to keep Montserrat as a worship and prayer place.

A lot of cultural and ludic (festive) traditions take place up there, half way from Heaven, such as the well known “human towers”.

Just in case you still haven’t read anything about the “human towers”, known as Castells (which are performed by “castellers”), was started 300 years ago, with the “Ball dels Valencians”, in a southern area of Catalunya, in Tarragona and close to Tarragona, in a village named Arboç (where the first documented human tower took place).

These human towers are constructed by hundreds of people with the target of raising different human constructions, with no mecanic help at all, with different complexity. Some of those human constructions have gone up to ten “floors” up.

If you decide to visit Montserrat, the extra muscles required to get to its highest point are well worth straining. The monastery sits at an altitude of 725 metres, so getting to the highest point of the mountain, Sant Jeroni, involves a fairly steep 500-metre hike. While the route is tough at points, it is mostly well-laid out, and a return journey takes around four hours. If you visit at the weekend, don’t expect to be alone – Montserrat is a highly popular destination with tourists and locals alike. On the other hand if you can’t be bothered to walk there is a funicular near the monastery that takes you most of the way to the summit.

Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona is simple. Make your way to the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) station at Plaça Espanya where you can buy a combined ticket that will take you all the way to the Monastery by a normal suburban train service, and then up the mountain by either cable car or funicular train.