This morning, our bus journeyed to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat, located about an hour north of Barcelona. We stopped at the foot of the high mountain and took a cable car ride to the top, affording us spectacular views of the vista below, in spite of hazy conditions.
The first thing we did was line up to see the Black Madonna, a wooden statue about 3 feet high encased in glass. Here is what I found out about it:
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.
After a brief tour of the surroundings we were given several hours to explore on our own. Several in our group hiked up to the cross on a mountain across from the abbey and others made it to the very top of the mountain. But I and three others decided to attend mass in the basilica. Unfortunately the boys choir is on vacation, but we did hear the monks sing accompanied by the organ.
As I told one of my companions, even though I do not understand a word of Spanish, I was still able to figure out where we were in the service: the psalm, the lesson, the Sanctus, the Lord’s Prayer, the Peace, etc. It is what causes wonder and amazement at the Church Universal; no matter where you are in the world, and attend a Christian mass, the service is the same. No matter whether you are in Japan, or Germany, or here in Spain, the order of the service is identical, and is just in another language.
In mid afternoon, we boarded the bus and drove to the cava wine country where we had a most delightful tour of how they make Spain’s sparkling wine. It began with a movie presentation, then we rode around the vineyards in a small choo-choo train. We then went into the museum to see the old ways of pressing the grapes, then descended 117 steps below to the cellars (17 meters below ground). We then boarded another small train down below and it reminded everyone of a ride at Disneyland–like a roller coaster! Round and round through the narrow lanes of the cellar, which totaled 35 km altogether! Our guide, Pilar, had told us to expect a surprise that would bring us back to our childhood!
Of course, the end of the tour was a wine-tasting, and I had several sips.
Here is a short video I took of the roller coaster ride in the wine cellar!