Friday, 8 July 2016
This morning after a refreshing breakfast I walked about 6k to the Cremallera or Rack railway that climbs vertically from the village of Monistrol de Montserrat, after being told by my hosts last night that no one now walks up to the monastery perched high on the holy mountain, Monserrat. After using the Cremallera I now agree with them,when they told me, I was mad for having done the climb. The Cremallera is a fantastic experience and affords you the opportunity to not only enjoy a great feat of engineering but to wonder and marvel at the amazing scenery with sheer rock formations to your right and a plunging view down into the plains below, on your left. I saw more during the fifteen minute journey today than I saw in the near four hour climb yesterday. You don't see much looking at your feet and with sweat blinding you. At the top and it took me awhile to fully grasp the beauty, magnitude, history, peacefulness and special atmosphere that is the Sanctuary of Monserrat. I have always been inspired by the square and basilica at Santiago along with the special atmosphere created by pilgrims, well today, I experienced something that rivals if not betters Santiago as the finishing point for a walk. I was the only person there who was doing the Ignatian Way and the place was packed with people but such is the peaceful, spiritual surroundings, people show respect thus creating a silent devotional aura, perhaps because everyone , myself included, is so captivated by the beauty of mans creation which enhances the setting nature has spectacularly provided. I wondered around, mouth open, just soaking in wonderful sights. I stood admiring the outside of the monastery and was further taken back when entering through the door that I wasn't inside the church but had entered a large square with cloisters down each side and the door to the church in front of me. I joined the silent queue that had formed to walk past the large, beautifully ornate, 12th Century carved image of Our Lady of Montserrat, the Black Madonna, La Morenta, perched high above the main altar, Santiago style. You would need several days to fully explore the Sanctuary and the beautiful grounds but I did make sure to find, in the Basilica, the sculpture of St. Ignatius which recalls how he knelt before " Our Lady of Montserrat" on 24th March 1522 and offered up his knights sword before dressing in a pilgrims sackcloth. Well I didn't have a sword, not even walking poles to offer up, and sackcloth doesn't really appeal, so I did things the modern way and presented myself at the pilgrim office to get the official stamp on my passbook. I felt sad leaving Montserrat but I still had to finish the walk at Manresa. Taking the train down meant that the walk would be only about 7k but I'll finish now and keep Manresa for tomorrow's blog.