Those in charge of choosing the sites where to build monasteries have always been very clever. That is indisputable. As indisputable as it should be a visit to Montserrat, if you are around the Barcelona area, and do not want to miss a beautiful display.
It seems that the mountain of Montserrat was a sacred place to which magical powers were attributed. A perfect place for a monastery to guard, for example, the Holy Grail. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Between legend and history, we learn of a first chapel that kept a revered image of the Virgin. In this place, around the eleventh century, a monastic institution was founded, which grew rapidly in reconquest land thanks to its sanctuary status and the many donations it received. It gained so much importance that they were able to expand it, attract more monks and achieve more independence.
There is little left today of the Romanesque aspect that one day the monastery had. A matter of architectural fashions and also the passing by of the Napoleonic troops. Our beloved neighbours came by fire and sword at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and they destroyed almost everything, so what you can see today here is the result of reconstructions. Nevertheless, Montserrat retains its symbolic character for Catalonia, its Benedictine monks, its old singing school and its important library, as well as its enclave and its superb views.
Well … And what about the Holy Grail? Do not think that we are the only ones who ask about it. The Nazi commander, Heinrich Himmler, a little gem of a character, also asked about him during his visit to the monastery back in 1940. Nobody understood why, after having dealt with political affairs in Madrid, he would take the effort to come here, to a place that was entirely out of his way.
Himmler went up to Montserrat the same day that his boss, Adolf Hitler, another gem, was interviewing Franco in Hendaye because according to the interpretation of a legend made by the Reich hierarchies, the sacred vessel could be in this mountain. They had to receive the Nazi, of course, but to prevent the abbot from being in the photograph with the person responsible for the concentration camps, a certain Father Ripol had to take his place.
Ripol stood his ground and even discussed with Himmler about the theories of racial superiority, so dear to the Hitlerian leaders. So Heinrich, instead of the Holy Grail, found here and insolent monk and a Black Virgin, the famous Moreneta. Surely it was not what he expected in any case.
In fact, we know today that it is almost certain the magical relic was never here. But going up to Montserrat and contemplating what is offered to the sight, it would be easy to believe that it could very well have been here.