Monday, December 12, 2011

To the Monastery!

So, after we had some snacks and coffee, we got back into our little bus and headed to Montserrat (not to be confused with the island). To get there, you travel a long and winding road up into the mountains. As we drove, Marta told us the story of Montserrat - how some monks found a statue of the Virgin in a cave in the mountain. They decided a cave was no place for her to be, so they picked her up and started to carry her down the mountain, but as they carried her away, she became heavier and heavier, until they could no longer lift her. Finally, they decided to just leave her and build the monastery around her. Now, pilgrims come from around the world to visit her and touch her hand. More on that later...

The view.
What amazes me is how they managed to build this amazing monastery pretty much on the top of a mountain. I'm also fascinated with how cell phones work, television, and how what I am typing on my computer here will be seen by you, yes you!, on your computer in South Carolina (Hi Pauline! We got your Christmas letter today!). So, pretty much anything I cannot actually see happening boggles my mind.

The monastery.
Marta really wanted us to get there by noon so we could see hear the Boy's Choir. Click on the link and you can hear them too! In this video, you get a better sense of their cute little robes. Where did their arms go? We got there just barely in time...Marta asked if we wanted to see the Virgin as well. Sure, why not? I didn't really know what that involved, but she said she would get in line to see the Virgin and we should head into the chapel.

An adult choir was singing, and then it got to the point where someone checked and Marta was about to head to the inside portion of the line. So, we joined her. Luckily, the line runs along the side chapels inside so we were still able to hear them. They sounded like little voices from heaven. And when they are done one little boy says thank you or goodbye or something in a bunch of different languages...and then off they go. The file off in their little robes with their arms stuck inside, looking sort of reminiscent of wingless penguins.

On the first link above, if you look closely above the boy's choir, you can see people filing past on what appears to be a balcony. That is where the Virgin is. She is a Black Madonna, and the Christ Child sits on her lap. I didn't take a photo because that seemed disrespectful to me (although plenty of other people did). Not really disrespectful to her, but there was a really long line to see her. You can click the link to see what she looked like.

There is a lot to see while you wait in line though. It's just a beautiful place. I took a lot of pictures, but most of them looked pretty bad. I need a better camera.

Close up of some of the carving in an archway.
This is one of the martyred saints. I think there were two walls of women saints...one with virgin martyrs and one with non-virgin martyrs.I forget who this one was, but I think she was burned.

So, they say that you make a promise to the Virgin and then ask for a favor and touch her hand. The example Marta gave us was of someone she knew who told the Virgin that if she granted this person their wish for a child, she would climb up Montserrat on her knees. Shortly thereafter, she became a mother. And she has been crawling up Montserrat on her knees, a little bit at a time. 50 feet one day...get in the car. Come back a few weeks later, another 50 feet (or something like that). Sneaky! I did ask for something, but I don't remember what I promised. Oops.

Now, this is not the original Madonna that was found in the woods...Marta said no one has ever given her a straight answer about where she is. Hmmm.....

After we visited the Virgin, you walk through the Ava Maria passageway, which I thought was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Candles upon candles upon candles of prayers.



Then, there is this little room with all sorts of "stuff". A wedding dress, baby clothes, various doll parts (arms, legs), all sorts of things. Marta explained to us that when you ask the Virgin for a favor, and she grants it, many people come back and leave something behind to thank her. So for instance, you may pray for pain in your arm to go away. Obviously, you can't leave you arm behind, but a doll's arm represents that.


Then we wandered a bit around seeing nothing in particular until we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. Ham and cheese sandwiches again. Yum!


After lunch we walked down the mountain just a wee bit. We walked along the pathway a little ways that has art depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Each station has statue depicting that piece of Christ's life and there is information about the artist and who donated the money for the piece of art. The ones we saw were all beautiful. Then we took the funicular back up the mountain.




There was a wonderful little market going on. I bought some honey and fig bread? Date bread? Gah...I can't remember, but Marta said it was a local specialty.


I'd love to head back to Montserrat someday and hike all the way out to the chapel that stands where they originally found the Virgin, see all the statues, explore the gift shop, art museum.

But, we didn't have time. We had to head back to Barcelona.

This guy was obviously tired.
We had such a wonderful day with Marta. We were back around 4:00 or so. David and I headed to the little pastry shop I had been to with Kym and Kelly. We got cafe con leche, pastries, and sat there and pretended to read the Catalan newspaper. We headed back to the apartment where everyone was on the roof, deciding what we should do for dinner. All these choices, but what we really wanted was Chinese take-out. :-) Lucky for us, there was a place right next door. We enjoyed our take-out with some cava or course! For dessert, the fig bread from the market and this other equally delicious treat from the pastry shop.

Yummy!
 Then, it was off to bed. Exhausted once more, but thoroughly satisfied with another amazing day in Spain.

See you tomorrow!

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