The Benedictine monastery of Montserrat was founded almost a thousand years ago, in the 11th century, by the abbot Oliba, by the side of the shrine of Santa Maria (9th century). Nothing remains of this small church, although some features of the Romanesque church built in the 12th century can be seen. However, the current abbey is a Renaissance work from the 16th century. Moreover, destruction caused by Napoleonic troops made it necessary to reconstruct thoroughly. In fact, the façades of the abbey and of the monastery are both from the 20th century.
There is currently a community of some eighty monks here following the rule of Saint Benedict and who are dedicated fundamentally to deepening their religious experience, working and giving shelter to pilgrims. The interior of the monastery, a part of the museum, has an exceptional library with a collection of more than 250,000 volumes.
The church was made a basilica in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII, and here the image of the Mother of God of Montserrat is venerated - also known as the Moreneta (Dark Virgin) because of the colour of her face and hands, and of the Infant Jesus she holds in her lap. It is a Romanesque work of carved wood, polychromed and gilded, from the 12th century, and in 1881 was proclaimed the patroness of Catalonia.
The other feature always associated with the monastery of Montserrat is the Escolanía, one of the oldest boys' choirs in Europe, with documents from the 14th century already speaking of its existence. It is a choir of boys between 10 and 14 years of age who sing in various religious services: from Monday to Friday at 1pm and on Sundays at 12 noon, the Salve and the Virolai, and from Monday to Thursday and on Sundays at 6:45 pm, the Salve Montserratina. The Escolanía Choir of Montserrat has an extensive discography.
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