The highlight of Placa del Monestir (or the Sanctuary) is the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat and the Benedictine Monastery which were founded in year 1025. The monastery is home to 80 Benedictine monks and is closed to the public. The Shrine has been a major pilgrimage destination for Catholics and a spiritual center of the first order.
The Shrine holds daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hour recitation and nightly Vesper. At 1pm, visitors are treated to a choir performance by The Escolania. The Escolania, a 50 member choir group, is one of the most renowned ancient boys’ choirs group in Europe. During the performance, the group will sing the Salve Maria and Virolai hymm. During the nightly Vesper, the group will also sing the Salve Montserratina.
Despite not having the boys’ choir group during our visit, the nightly Vesper led by the Benedictine monks was the most beautiful and heavenly Vesper we ever experienced. Though we couldn’t understand the Gregorian chants, the superb acoustic of the basilica coupled with the prayerful and angelical voice of the monks, those were the most enchanted nights we ever had.
The Crypt in the basilica is where the body of Abat Oliba, the founder of the monastery was laid to rest. A statue of him can be found near the Via Crucis Trail and the Cel.les Abat Marcet (Monastery Apartment).
At the centre of the altar is the original statue of the Black Virgin found in Santa Cova (The Holy Grotto) 1,000 years ago.
Facing the altar, on the right aisle is a glittering passage fronted by a majestically carved entrance.
This glamorous passageway leads to the Virgin’s Throne, place where the statue of the Black Virgin is kept.
Candles of Faithful
The moment we exit the Virgin’s Throne (and therefore the Basilica), we were thrust into a dark and narrow walkway. The only light that accompanied us as we walked through this long walkway are the candles lighted by the faithfuls. It was an especially spiritual and romantic walk!