Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Seventh Test

Magnificent Montserrat

The Black Virgin was found here at the Santa Cova!

Follow in the direction of the sea which is surrounded by earth. Close to a big city, a legend says that the angels came down from the skies and sawed the rocks to build a throne for the Black Virgin who is found there.

I had figured this location prior to leaving Vienna, and although it was uncharacteristically way down south from Paulo's usual Camino hunting grounds, I was convinced that I had guessed this correctly.

Having solved and completed the test at Sos del Rey Catholico, also taking my photo at the "The Wall", I had continued on towards Jaca, and as light was fading, I had decided to spend the night there. I drove around for a while trying to find somewhere to park the car, and having done that I set off to search for an Albergue that was open at this time of the year. Take several wrong turns in the narrow alleys of Jaca, I finally found the Albergue, just before it was about to close it's doors for the night. The lady at reception was not entirely happy to see me, and once she took me upstairs to show me the dormitory and my bed, I became aware as to the reason why... I was alone... not a single soul in the building!

She remined me of the rules, and said that she would stay the night and would lock the door behind her at 22:00 pm, not returning again until 09:00 am the next morning. So I prepared for a 'dark night' absolutely alone in this huge building.

As I still had 30 minutes to spare before the doors were closed, I dashed out to buy some food and drink, as I had not eaten anything all day.

I made it back just in time for the lady to say good night, and lock me in. I felt more like a prisoner that a pilgrim.

Having fed myself, and cleaned myself up, I rolled out my sleeping bag and climbed in, grateful to have found a bed for the night. I slept without stirring and awoke to a beautiful sunlit but cold morning. The lady had not yet arrived but I decided to pack my things a go downstairs to wait for her. I noticed however that the door opened in one, outward direction, so I picked up my things and depated the empty Alebergue.

First having to scrape the ice off the car's windscreen, I then headed off in the direction of Huesca and Zaragozza. Many of the road swere unfinished but the journey went well and in about six hours I came into the viscinity of Manresa and Montserrat.

The first glimpse of the bizarre mountains out of which the sacred alter of the black virgin was supposedly carved, was awe inspiring. I had never seen anything quite like it during my wordly travels.

I new that the Cathedral held the original of the Black Madonna high up behind the altar, but the Quest's test was to take a photos at the place where the Madonna was found, so I made my way down the steep amd winding path to the Santa Cova. A beautiful but strenuous walk of about 35 minutes led me to the place where she was found, and I arrived as a group of Hungarians were being ushered through the tiny chapel. Fortunately a Japanese lady was here to take photos so I asked if she would so kind as to take my picture. I returned the favour and then sat in silent meditation, to reflect on my journey thus far and to give thanks. I lit a candle for those no longer with us, and made my way slowly back up the steep path to the main Cathdral area.

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 (Santa Cova, the Holy Grotto), where it was rediscovered in 880 AD.

According to the legend of the discovery, which was first recorded in the 13th century, the statue was discovered by shepherds. They saw a bright light and heard heavenly music that eventually led them to the grotto and the statue.

The Bishop of Manresa, present at the discovery, suggested that it be moved to Manresa, 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.

By the 9th century, there were four chapels on Montserrat, of which only one remains - St. Aciscolo's, which is in the monastery's garden. In the 11th century, the abbot-bishop Oliba founded a monastery on the mountain of Montserrat, next to one of the chapels. Many miracles were reported through the intercession of the Virgin Mary at Montserrat.

According to historians, it was then, in the 12th century, that the statue of the Madonna and Child was made. The Madonna statue soon earned widespread fame as numerous miracles were associated with the intercession of the Black Virgin of Montserrat.

Many of the first missionary churches in Mexico, Chile and Peru were dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat and many saints and popes have visited the shrine over the centuries. St. Ignatius Loyola made a pilgrimage to Montserrat after being injured in war, and it was soon after that he wrote his famous Spiritual Exercises.

Due to the great numbers of pilgrims that flocked to Montserrat throughout the Middle Ages, the monastery was enlarged from its original humble size. In 1592, the grand basilica of Montserrat was consecrated.

In the late 18th century, almost the entire sanctuary was destroyed during the Napoleonic invasion. But due to the widespread devotion to the shrine, it was soon restored.
In 1881, Montserrat's Black Madonna was crowned in accordance with Canon Law and proclaimed patron saint of Catalonia by Pope Leo XIII.

My visit here was a wonderful experience and I felt a deep connection once more to the feminine face of God.

Having taken my compulsory photos, completing my task here, I moved on towards and through Andorra into France, where I would spend the night, prior to my encounter with Brida...


No comments:

Post a Comment