Monserrat serves as a refuge not only for religious people but also many pilgrims who come to see the sacred Black Madonna, a wood carving found in the 12th century
. According to legend, it is believed to be dated from the 1st century AD and carved by St. Luke himself. The carving if of the Virgin Mary as the "Mother of God in Majesty" or the "Throne of Wisdom" and is characterized as the Queen Mother. She holds the sphere of the universe in her right hand and hold Jesus in her left, who holds a pineapple the symbol of life and fecundity.
During the years of 1939-1975, Spain was under control of the Fascist military dictator Franco who oppressed Catalunya's national identity and vibrant culture. Monserrat served as a refuge for scholars, intellectuals, students, and artists during those times and and served as a safe haven from punishment. Monserrat came to be symbol of Catalunyan pride and helped to preserve Catalunyan identity during the most trying of times.
I'm in Santa Marie de Monserrat on a day trip to get away from the city life for a short while. This Benedictine monastery sits among the Montserrat range (serrated mountains), nestled within a cave like dwelling and serves as a remote sanctuary for the resident monks, priests and nuns who reside here. At 4000 ft (1200 m) above sea level and accessible only by cable car, it is the highest point on the Catalunya lowland plain where Barcelona is located. The air is cooler and quieter where the songs of finches serenade the visiting pilgrims. Trails cut through the mountains, lined with catholic symbols (crosses, statues, mosaics) serve as aids for meditation and prayer. The trails often come to dead ends as to emphasize the journey and not the destination. Looking off in the distance gives a magnificent 180 degree view of the lowlands including Barcelona and even the island of Mallorca off in the distance.