Day 8 (August 22) was spent in Montserrat and then Barcelona. Departed Sant Cugat in the morning to Montserrat first, then spent the lunch in Barcelona and took a half day city tour from there.
Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain located near the city of Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. It is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range. The main peaks are Sant Jeroni (1.236 m), Montgrós (1.120 m) and Miranda de les Agulles (903 m). The mountain is the namesake for the Caribbean island of Montserrat. It is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. “Montserrat” literally means “jagged (serrated) mountain” in Catalan. It describes its peculiar aspect with multitude of rock formations which are visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock (from Wikipedia).
Of course we visited the Santa Maria de Monsterrat because of the popular Black Madonna, the Virgin of Monsterrat. The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia’s favourite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain. The Basilica also houses a museum with works of art by many prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso, and more (from Wikipedia).
Back in Barcelona, we visited some sites such as Montjuïc, La Sagrada Família, and Park Güell.
Barcelona’s Montjuïc is a broad shallow hill with a relatively flat top overlooking the harbour, to the southwest of the city centre. The eastern side of the hill is almost a sheer cliff, giving it a commanding view over the city’s harbour immediately below. The top of the hill (a height of 184,8 m) was the site of several fortifications, the latest of which (the Castell de Montjuïc) remains today. The fortress largely dates from the 17th century, with 18th-century additions. In 1842, the garrison (loyal to the Madrid government) shelled parts of the city. It served as a prison, often holding political prisoners, until the time of General Franco. The castle was also the site of numerous executions. In 1897, an incident popularly known as Els processos de Montjuïc prompted the execution of anarchist supporters, which then led to a severe repression of the workers’ struggle for their rights. On different occasions during the Spanish Civil War, both Nationalists and Republicans were executed there, each at the time when the site was held by their opponents. The Catalan nationalist leader Lluís Companys i Jover was also executed there in 1940, having been extradited to the Franco government by the Nazis (from Wikipedia). It also has the Olympic Stadium, where it all happened in 1992.
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí’s death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed train could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Familia, art critic Rainer Zerbst said “it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldberger called it ‘the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages’ (from Wikipedia).
Lastly, Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill ofEl Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudíand built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí” (from Wikipedia).