Today I have no statistics on hand, I don’t want to look for them either. But if I was to be asked what place most Catalans would like to visit when the confinement is over and we can go out with a certain normality, I would venture to say that it will be a place full of nature. And if they asked me to specify a little more, I would dare to say that many of them will think about Montserrat.
Montserrat, memories of a lifetime
Montserrat is a special place for many of us. The landscape of Montserrat, despite having seen it a thousand times, and a thousand times seen full of people, conveys a feeling of tranquility and peace.
It is a landmark in the landscape. When you come from afar and see the serrated line at its top, you often feel like you’re coming home.
As you approach it, whether by car, on foot, or with a zip line, it’s as if the vertical walls in front of you are starting to open to let you in.
And once in the sanctuary, it’s as if you’ve reached the beginning of everything, not the end of the road.
In the memory of my childhood, Montserrat is very present. It was almost an annual outing, one of the rituals of summer. Go for a walk at the mountains in the morning, eat something on the way, and end up having a piece of coca, a tipical Montserrat cake and chocolate before taking the 5pm bus back to Barcelona.
Then, older, Montserrat becomes into something else. In my case, in a workplace. A place where I can accompany thousands of people who find an unexpected landscape, and who, in addition to talk about history, religion and culture, we can also talk about what makes it a special place.
But Montserrat is always in transformation for all of us.
Like that time, that you are surprised by asking the Virgin to lend a hand to your football team to overcome a complicated match. Or asking it to rain because the drought is already unbearable for the earth. Or stop the fire that irretreviably burns everything in front of us.
And with age, traditions return
With age, traditions return. To go there with the whole family, in a kind of desire to present, now to the Virgin, those who are yours. To spend the day walking around the sanctuary, maybe because now the kids are too young to throw uphill. Go to listen to the Escolania, go for a walk around the museum, and stop by the store to buy the cake of Montserrat and some chocolates. The taste of snack from so many years ago.
And then one day, a new experience is added to the mythical memory of the mountain. The one to spend the night in Montserrat. To listen the sound of silence, to feel the sunset and the awakening of the day. To hear monks and schoolchildren singing in the evenings and to understand why religiosity is not the same as spirituality. Talking softly as if you don’t want the mountain to wake up early.
Today is April 27, the day of the Virgin of Montserrat.
Under normal circumstances, the Sanctuary would be full of people from yesterday afternoon. Pilgrims from all over Catalonia gathered in Montserrat to attend the vigil. Of the faithful who today, after participating in the Mass of the Solemnity of the Virgin, had gathered to dance sardanas in the squares of the monastery. Of people who, before returning home, had bought cake and chocolate for a snack in Montserrat, as they have always done.
But this April 27th is different. Only the monks living in the monastery participate in the prayers and the rest of the faithful follow them on television or Internet. New technologies have long since reached a monastery that will be soon 1,000 years old. Now, thanks to them, maybe even many more people will be able to follow the celebrations.
After today, we can only wait for the end of the confinement and for us to return slowly to normalcy. And probably this normalcy will pass trough recovering traditions. Those that the rush of recent times have made us almost lose them and that now we miss.
How to spend your day in Montserrat.
If you come to spend a few days in Catalonia, don’t forget to visit Montserrat. If you want to come with us, we will try to make Montserrat part of your memories as well as ours.