The Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat is old. The mountain it’s on – Montserrat (which means jagged peak) – has been of religious focus since pre-Christian times, home to a Roman Venus temple. It was by 880 the first monastery on the site was built, but it was in the 12th century the popularity of the mountain as a pilgrimage destination rocketed.
This was due to its Black Madonna, also known as the Virgin of Montserrat. It was known as a ‘miracle-worker’ and continues to draw millions a year, the reason we had to wait for almost half-an-hour to see it in a line stretching from the entrance to where it lay. But while most reaching the statue paid their homage and said their prayers, not taking their eyes off it for as long as possible, I decided to turn around and see the unparalleled view you have of the 16th century church from there. A breathless silence filled the air. The feeling was palpable: this was holy ground.