Modestly cradled into the side of a steep mountain lies one of the most venerated shrines in Spain: The Santa Cova of Montserrat.
Carved by St. Luke around 50 AD, the Black Virgin of Montserrat (one of the semi-mysterious black Madonnas, where Mary has dark or black skin, of Europe) was brought to Spain and hidden in the Santa Cova cave from the Moors. Based on a legend dating back to text from 1239, the image of Our Lady of Montserrat was rediscovered in the cave in 880.
On a Saturday at dusk, shepherd children noticed a “great light” fall from the sky accompanied by a “beautiful song” in the mountains. This repeated for a few subsequent Saturdays until finally the Bishop of Manresa and others took a trip into the mountains and discovered the image of the Virgin Mary in a cave. Though small, the statue could not be lifted and they considered this a divine intervention. Thus the image stayed and has been worshiped in Montserrat ever since.
It is possible to visit the grotto as well as the chapel that has been built into it. The chapel dates back to 1696 and was constructed directly into the mountain itself. Aside from centuries of battle-scars of woes past, such as Napoleonic Wars, mudslides, and forest fires, the chapel is still standing today thanks to a restoration completed in 1997. Each year thousands of visitors come to pray and worship.
Upon visiting it is important to respect the motto of “Pray and be silent.”
Know Before You Go
Santa Cova does not sit directly next to Montserrat Monastery, it is further back down Montserrat Mountain. It can be accessed by hiking or taking a funicular part way and walking the rest.