Montserrat, only 40 kilometres (30 miles) inland from Barcelona, is a very powerful symbol for the Catalan people, and you would be hard pressed to find a Catalan who hadn't, at some point in time, visited Montserrat. The mountain of Montserrat, which means "sawed mountain", is a unique geological formation of such unique beauty that it has long captured the imagination of both local and foreign artists. Richard Wagner stayed there for some time and his opera Parsifal uses Montserrat as its backdrop. The cult of the Virgin of Montserrat, popularly known as "La Moreneta" because of the dark material of which she is sculpted, is the most popular cult in Catalonia. The "moreneta", whose full title is "Mare de Deu de Montserrat", is housed in the Benedictine abbey that has become world famous because of its boy's choir and school of music. This monastery was also notorious during the Franco regime for being a stronghold of Catalan culture and language. In direct defiance of Franco's anti-Catalan laws, the monks of Montserrat continued celebrating marriages and baptisms in Catalan after the Civil War. The monastery became a refuge for the many Catalan nationalists that remained underground until Franco's death in 1975.
You can reach this magnificent site by car, by train (from Pl. Espanya station, every 2 hours from 9:11am), or by bus (ask your hotel concierge for bus information). There is a spectacular funicular ride straight up the steep mountain side when you get there.
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