Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 17, 2006
Air of holiness pervades Montserrat
Image of Mother of God statue was found in a cave in AD 880
Image of the Mother of God – April 27
By TED FITZGERALD
- Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
A replica of the Image of the Mother of God resides in the Cathedral.
Since then, the site has been the focus of many historic events - the founding of Europe's first boy's choir in 1223, pilgrimages by many saints and famous people, the slaying of monk's during the country's civil war, later reconciliation with the Franco government and a visit from Pope John Paul II.
Forest fires and numerous restorations have done nothing to take away the aura of holiness that surrounds today's complex.
Montserrat basilica is not too impressive from the outside, but the interior is noted for its great size and many side chapels dedicated to saints, scriptural events and historic characters associated with the monastery.
Beneath the buttresses of the mainly Gothic church, these cells are interconnected by means of exterior passageways, a feature uncommon for Catalan churches, and all contain many valuable artworks.
Focal point of the basilica is the Image of the Mother of God, dwarfed by the sheer size of the nave, reposing sedately high above the main altar. The throne room was restored in 1954 and contains the statue, seated beneath an ornate stone canopy and bordered by traditional Catalan decorative motifs.
Pilgrims often time their day visits to the shrine to allow for attendance at the 11a.m. Mass in the basilica so that they can hold a place for the standing room only renditions of the Salve Regina and Virolai by the world renowned Escolania, said to be one of the oldest choirs of its type in existence.
Needless to say, the voices, as promised, are heavenly.
At any time of the day, visitors can join the long line of devotees that begins near the front of the basilica and extends past the right-hand chapels to visit the image of Our Lady. The line inches its way the length of the church and up a series of steps to pass in front of the Image of the Mother of God.
Those remaining in the nave will be able to see only three tiny figures of the nearly static procession as they appear in single file high on the reredos, pause to venerate the statue and are replaced by another three in seemingly endless repetition.
It's not possible to absorb everything on the mountain in a one-day trip.
Pathways and aerial trams give access to a number of chapels, religious sites, the holy grotto and scenic viewpoints (the mountain is a national park).
Pilgrims may follow the Way of the Cross, stay overnight in two hostelries, dine in restaurants or cafeterias, shop for books and souvenirs, or indulge in the site's world famous chocolate.
Whatever their departure time, it's always too soon for pilgrims to the shrine of the Image of the Mother of God at Montserrat.
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