The last leg of the journey up from Iguelada to Monsterrat was exciting, as the steep road, still covered in morning clouds, took us along hairpin bends and curves up and up the mountain. From the top there were magnificent views of Catalan landscape - and behind us, the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat carved into the rock underneath huge outcrops that looked like lumbering giants.
This was where St Ignatius came and prayed for three days and nights before the Black Madonna of Monserrat, patron saint of Catalonia. We had Mass in one of the chapels in the Basilica that evening before returning to the monastery hotel.
Next morning we got a cable car up the mountain and set off for the hermitage of St Jerona. It was quite a stiff climb on the designated footpath - but several groups of young people - equipped with rock-climbing ropes and tackle took more adventurous routes, abseiling up the sheer rock faces. At the summit, we paused for pictures against the dizzymaking backdrop of mountains before beginning the long ascent.
That evening we attended Mass in Catalan in the Basilica before paying a visit to the Black Madonna and lighting candles in the Shrine for Aid to the Church in Need.
I would love to come here again - Montserrat has such a fascinating history. Long before the time of Christ the Romans had a temple here dedicated to Venus. The first known monastery on the site dates to 888. Much of the monastery was destroyed by Napoleon. Then, under Franco, 20 monks were killed here for helping to hide Catalan activists. The Museum of Montserrat has works of major artists such as Dali, El Greco, Monet or Giordano as well as liturgical and archaeological exhibits.
But on this visit - there just wasn't time. Today we logged over 20 kilometres - but there still a long way to go.
We are walking to raise funds for the work of Aid to the Church in Need with Christian refugees in camps in northern Iraq, and Jesuit Refugee Service projects in London.
If you'd like to give a donation please see: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Farm-Street-Camino-Walkers
See also: Walking in the steps of St Ignatius #2 www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=31025
Walking in the steps of St Ignatius #1 www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=31008
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