Architecturally speaking, the Basilica falls between the Gothic and Renaissance traditions, the latter of which
began to spread through Catalonia in the 16th century. The Basilica was greatly damaged during the War with the Frech
(1808-1814), and could not be reconstructed until the end of the 19th century .
The atrium that provides access to the church is from the eighteenth century,
although it did undergo some alterations in the middle of the twentieth century.
Of particular note are the series of scratch-work and sculptures of saints or
kings connected with Montserrat in its combined role of Benedictine Monastery
and Marian Shrine. Images which stand out are those of St. John the Baptist and
Saint Joseph sculpted by Josep Clarà. In this atrium is the baptistry with its
door which has a representation of the cycle of Church sacraments according to
the catechism beginning with baptism.
The central aisle is 68.32 metres long, 21.5 wide and 33.33 high. In spite of
the period when it was built, it is covered with very rounded Gothic arches
which are firmly supported by the walls which separate the six side chapels.
Together, they constitute an unusual building amongst the monuments of Catalonia
and mark the transition from the Gothic to Renaissance. The interior of the
church was restored with somewhat eclectic decoration following the destruction
by Napoleon's armies. A programme of works was carried out between 1992 and 1996
to return the exterior to its original Renaissance design, which was lost due to
various additions. The interior also underwent some restoration so that more
light could enter through the reopening of the side windows and the octagonal
dome to offset the shady colour the building had acquired over the course of
time. All of this work was overseen by the architect Arcadi Pla.
The wide marble staircase which leads to the Niche, located at the back of the
church, opens out into a carved alabaster doorway by Enric Monjo with Marian
stories and flanked by two candelabra that are also made of alabaster by Rafael
Solanich. The interior of the stairway is decorated with beautifully-made
mosaics designed by Fr. Benet Martínez, one of the monks of Montserrat. The two
antechambers to the throne of the Holy Image contain paintings by Josep Obiols.
Two pairs of beaten silver doors lead to the small throne room, visible from the
central aisle. The dome and walls of the throne room are decorated with folden
mosaics designed by Obiols, which show Our Lady of Montserrat being proclaimed
patron saint of Catalonia and other Marian scenes. There are nine worked silver
lamps, representing the eight Catalan dioceses and the Community of Montserrat,
around the room. Reliefs by Joaquim Ros representing the Nativity and the
Visitations of Mary flank the throne. Above the Image there are reproductions of
the crown, sceptre and lily offered by the people of Catalonia to Our Lady (the
originals are kept in the museum).
Teh back part of this room leads to the circular niche built between 1876 and 1884 by
Villar i Carmona in a pre-Modernista style with Gothic and Romanesque features.
The famous architect Gaudí played an important role in the direction of this
work. The vault is decorated with frescos by Joan Llimona, which show the
pilgrims of Montserrat being received by Saint Mary.
The exit from the niche is via the Path of the Ave Maria, where pilgrims leave
the candles they offer to Oru Lady as an act of thanks or in remembrance of the
prayer they have said at the Shrine.
The New Sacristy
The new Sacristy was built by the architect Francesc Folguera and consists of a
vestibule, a spacious room with cupboards and a small apse. In the vestibule
there is the tomb and statue in bronze by Joaquim Ros of the Venerable Fr. Josep
de Sant Benet, a monk who died in 1723 and who is remembered for his
holiness. The entire vault is decorated in a distinctly idealistic style with
biblical stories of the Eucharist and scenes of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost
by Josep Obiols. The mahogany cupboards along the side walls have marquetry
panels which show saints and others figures linked to Montserrat. The ensemble
is extremely beautiful and has especially well-balanced lines.
A small located in the right-hand side of the Presbytery, at the side of the
niche chamber itself, leads down to the Crypt. This sober harmonious
barrel-vaulted room was opened in 1951 and designed as the burial place for
Aboot Antoni M. Marcet and the monks who gave their lives to Christ in the civil
war of 1936-39.
The tombs are placed in two vaults opened in the wall; each has a Carrara marble
gravestone engraved with details of the remains contained in the vault. At the
back of the room there is a memorial stone to those monks whose remains could
not be found. The body of Abbot Marcet lies in a sarcophagus designed by Joan
Rebull in the centre of the room behind the altar.
In the sides walls are also to be found the tombs and gravestones of Cardinal
Anselm M. Albareda, the Abbots Gregori Sunyol, Aureli M. Escarré, Gabriel M.
Brasó and Pere Celestí Gusí, all the monks of Montserrat, of Fr. Bernardo López,
who was abbot at the Monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat in Manila, and of
Bishop Antonio Urbss of Latvia together with his secretary, both of whom died in
exile at the Monastery.