Architecture

The rugged outline of Mount Montserrat means that the construction of the Sanctuary is not uniform. Its structure is made up of two large blocks of buildings: the Basilica, together with Monastery buildings, and the buildings for tourists andpilgrims.

The Basilica

The Basilica 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

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 Church

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 Niche

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.

The Crypt

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.

Images

Main Altar

Main Altar

The Upper Choir

The Upper Choir, which until 1934 was the only one in the Basilica, is supported by Gothic arches above the chancel of the Church. The most notable feature is the group of neoclassical walnut choir-stalls which replaced the Renaissance choir-stalls carved by Cristóbal de Salamanca in the sixteenth century and burnt during the Napoleonic Wars (apart from a few panels and columns which still remain). The current choir-stalls were designed in 1824 by Antoni Cellés, who was the first director of the architecture class at the School of the Noble Arts of the Llotha in Barcelona.
The large nineteenth century polychromatic rose representing the coronation and glorification of Mary is also worthy of note.

Square of the Cross

This square owes its name to the cross that can be found to the left of the square. This is a work of art by Josep M. Subirach (1927) and is dedicated to San Miguel, the Patron Saint of Montserrat. The menaing of the name of the Archangel Michael (San Miguel) is engraved on the cross in various languages; it means "Who is as God ? ".

Abbot Oliba Square

A bronze statute by Manuel Cusachs (1933), dedicated to the Abbot Oliba, founder of the Monastery, dominates the square.The Abbot, Bishop of Vic, is seating on a chair on the back of which the bell towers of the monasteries of Ripoll (Ripollés) and of Sant Miquel de Cuixà (Conflent) can be seen. abbot Oliba is holding some plans showing the early church at Montserrat in his left hand, and with his rigth hand, he welcomes everyone who comes to Montserrat.
The square is surrounded by three large buildings, which are used to provide accommodation for the pilgrims. In the central part, we can see hundred years old cedars, brought from the mountains of Lebanon by Father Bonaventura Ubach

St. Mary's Square

St. Mary's square is a long esplanade ending at the mountain, and is made up by three graded squares. It is the work of the architec J. Puig I Cadafalch (1867-1956).
The new facade of the Monastery, built in polished mountain stone by Francesc Folguera (1891-1966), rises up over the suqre. The facade's three upper arcades are decorated with reliefs by J.Rebull (1899-1981). The one on the leftevokes the figure of San Benedict. The one in the centre represents the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the holy Mary by Pope Pius XII. And the relief on the right shows Saint George, whit the monks who died during the civil war.

The ruins of the Gothiic cloisters (1476), contructed by the commendatory Abbot, Giuliano della Rovere, who later Pope under the name of Julius II, can be found to the left of the facade. The series of sculptures that stand on the right-hand edge of the square are dedicated to the founding saints of the religious institutions that are related to Montserrat.


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