Montserrat is a mountain formation about an hour's drive out of Barcelona. In Spanish serrat means serrated and the aptly named chain looks like the top of a bread knife. I would guess that a thin stream of rock was squeezed out of a crack in the ground, but geologists say it is eroded remnants of rock and sediment deposited by an ocean eons ago. For our last day in Barcelona, we decided to take a tour to this scenic spot with a large monastery complex at the top. A bus bought us to the base of the mountain and a cog railway took us to the top. Sadly, the fine weather we've had on this trip ended a day too soon. If you go to a mountaintop on a rainy day you are likely to drive up into the clouds and that's exactly what we did. I'm including a few photos I stole from the web so that you (and I) can see what we missed and how beautiful it could have been.
According to Catholic tradition, the statue of the Black Virgin of Montserrat was carved by St. Luke around 50 AD and brought to Spain. It was later hidden from the Moors in a cave, where it was rediscovered in 880 AD. The statue was discovered by shepherds, who saw a bright light and heard heavenly music that eventually led them to the grotto and the statue. The local bishop suggested that it be moved, but the small statue was discovered to be so heavy it could not be lifted. Thus the Virgin had indicated her will to stay on Montserrat to be venerated there. Today this statue is the centerpiece of a beautiful church which was built around it. Pilgrims and the curious can file behind the altar to touch the orb the statue holds and get a blessing. Some of the visitors around us were visibly moved when they got a chance to touch the orb the Madonna holds. We could see the church and the statue just fine, but were sad to miss the great scenery we came for. We'll just have to come back.