Wednesday, July 30, 2008

May 5th, 2008 - A serrated mountain

Meandering south from Cordona it wasn't long before we began to get glimpses of a strange raggedy mountain range. The multi-talented co-pilot took a few pictures for later study. More miles, more raggedy mountain and more mystery. Finally, it dawned on us - the strange looking mountain was our target for the afternoon, the Montserrat Monastery - Montserrat = serrated mountain, duh!
One way or another, the monastery is quite a trip. Early writings suggest that activities began here around 880 CE and there are numerous rumors and fairy tales of lights, voices, and abundant miracles along with a black Madonna purportedly carved by the apostle Luke. When carbon dating indicated that the carved Madonna was produced around 1200, like the Shroud of Turin it suddenly became off limits to further study. All that aside, some reclusive stay-at-homes saw an opportunity to opt-out of worldly worries, form a monastery and profit from the ensuing stream of pilgrims. Hence was born the grotto, the monastery, a few shrines and finally the Montserrat basilica.
Over the following centuries, the monks have improved their cash-flow with the addition of a funicular railway, later augmented by a cable car, to increase the flow of punters to their restaurants and gift shops built around the monastery. Access by road is via a white knuckle, five mile drive, rising 4,000 feet around endless tree covered hairpin bends and terminating in a stiff parking fee at the top. Nice work if you can get it. See here for some of the views.

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