The main draw to Montserrat is the statue of the Black Virgin discovered 1,000 years ago by the faithfuls living in the region. As such, the Santa Cova or The Holy Grotto trail had to be the most important trail of all as it ends at the cave where the original statue was found.
The original statue had been moved to the basilica after its construction. The current statue (above) in the grotto is a replica. Nevertheless, pilgrims continued to kiss and touch the statue causing it to lose its colour (especially the “ball” held by the Black Virgin).
A 10 mins walk from Placa del Monestir (main square) will bring you to the top of Santa Cova. From here, you can either take the Funicular of Santa Cova or walk 100 metres down a well paved slope to reach the starting point of the Monumental Rosary of Santa Cova.
Monumental Rosary of Santa Cova
Monumental Rosary of Santa Cova is a path that leads to The Holy Grotto. The entire path is dotted with sculptural representation of the 15 mysteries of the Holy Rosary. For the faithfuls, while it is not a must though recommended, praying the rosary and meditating upon each mystery adds spirituality and faith to the pilgrimage.
It is an easy walk on flat road with stunning mountain view and interesting rock formation. However, it does not have any shades. So, come prepared with water, sunblocks and raincoat or umbrella (for the sudden change in weather).
From the starting point, we can see the minute view of The Holy Grotto.
Though the walk was easy, seeing how the road curves round the mountain, thus giving a hint on the distance was daunting. * If you look closely at the right edge, mid length of the picture above, you will see a crucifix. That’s just half way through the walk.
However, it was not going to deter us. Imagine back 1,000 years ago when there was no paved road. Despite having to climb through these treacherous path, the villages and monks persevered and carried the statue of the Black Virgin from the grotto to the now Sanctuary. Even the building of the basilica and monastery atop of Montserrat was an impossible feat that they achieved. That deep faith and enormous determination had greatly inspired us….”with faith and will, nothing is impossible“.
The first Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary marks the start of the Monumental Rosary of Santa Cova.
When we reached the Sorrowful Mystery, ironically, fatigue has kicked in and we were only one-third through our journey….somehow we can feel the “sorrow” 🙁
Finally, we reached the mid point of our journey at the 5th Sorrowful Mystery!
At this point, we met a group of faithfuls on their way back. Their cheer and encouragement was so apt (coincidence?) with the next mystery that we were heading to….the Glorious Mystery.
The fifth Glorious Mystery marks the end of the Monumental Rosary of Santa Cova.
The Holy Sculpture
And here we were at the Holy Grotto! Despite the heat and a threatening rain, we successfully completed our pilgrimage. The grotto prevails an aura of holiness, and thus a place for quiet prayer and meditation.
” The Holy Sculpture is a Romanesque carving from the later XIIth century, and represented St. Mary as “Mother of God in Majesty” or “Throne of Wisdom” typified as Queen, Mother and Virgin. The face is painted black except the neck to show the brown colour of the poplar. The overall details of the face reminds us of an early Gothic image. From the front and side angle, the face exults a sense of calm with a light smile.
The clothing is Romanesque with a long robe covering the feet. The right hand holds the world to signify the power over the universe, proper of Jesus Christ, and by extension, also of His Mother. The left hand does not touch the Son who is presented as the “blessed Fruit of her womb”.
The sculpture of the Child Jesus wears a crown like the mother. He blesses with his right hand and holds a pine, as a sign of fecundity, on his left.
The Mother sits on a throne with 4 columns; and between them a city is being painted, meaning Jerusalem.
The Mother of God carries and presents us Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom centuries and generations have adored in this Sanctuary of Montserrat, presenting her their prayers and leaving their votive offerings. “