of Barcelona, Spain, is the legendary monastery of Montserrat, the site
of religious pilgrimages for a long time, possibly going back even before
the Christian era.
The monastery can be found about halfway up the steep, barren mountain.
Only ruins can be found of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery, the
new monastery on the site was built in the 19th century.The monastery
at Monsterrat is home to one of the famous "Black Virgin"
statues. More about such statues and the history and legends of the
Black Virgins later......
monastery of Montserrat has long been a center of devotion for the Virgin
Mary. Legends say that the Virgin Mary has performed numerous miracles
there which explains the fact that the mountain had been inhabited by
hermits as early as the end of the ninth century. During this time the
mountain was reconquered from the "Saracens" and given to
the Benedictine monastery of Ripoll by the counts Wifredo and Suner.
The monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat was created out of one of
the hermitages. A large number of pilgrims went there, mainly because
of their belief in the wonder-working powers of the black statue of
the Virgin Mary . The monastery was also a cultural center of the first
order. Some of the monks residing their had studied at far away universities
like Paris or Bologna. Clerics from noble Spanish families, mostly from
Catalonia, represented the aristocracy in Montserrat through their celebration
of daily masses.
This is how Montserrat became the spiritual, cultural and political
center of Catalonia.
With the conquests of the Catalon-Aragonese crown, Montserrat became
famous worldwide: Churches were built in honor of the Virgin from Montserrat
in Mexico, Chile and Peru. In the colonies, islands and settlements
were named after her. After the almost complete devastation of the monastery
by Napoleon in 1811, Montserrat regained its former significance only
during the Catalonian 'Renaixença' and its rebuilding at the
end of the nineteenth century.
the Red Book of Montserrat
One of the
most precious treasures from the library of Montserrat is a codex from
the late fourteenth century, the 'Llibre Vermell' or 'Red Book'.
The manuscript is named after it's red velvet cover which was created
in the late 19th century. 35 of the original 172 sheets in folio of
this manuscript are lost today. Besides various other contents, mainly
for liturgical use, one of the fascicles (folio 21v - 27r) contains
ten musical works (notated during the years 1396-1399).
anonymous scribe explains in the text of the book, the intended function
of the pieces which were copied by him:
"Quia interdum peregrini quando vigilant in ecclesia Beate Marie
de Monte Serrato volunt cantare et trepudiare, et etiam in platea de
die, et ibi non debeant nisi honestas ac devotas cantilenas cantare,
idcirco superius et inferius alique sunt scripte. Et de hoc uti debent
honeste et parce, ne perturbent perseverantes in orationibus et devotis
"As it happens that the pilgrims, while holding night vigil
in the church of the Blessed Virgin from Montserrat, sometimes desire
to sing and to dance and even so during the day, in the Church Square,
where only virtuous and pious songs may be sung, some suitable songs
have been written down here for this need. These should be used in a
respectful and moderate manner, so as not to disturb those who wish
to continue their prayers and religious contemplations."
was no pilgrims hostel at Montserrat, the visitors spent the night in
the church, thus rearranging the liturgical room into a hostel. The
songs of the Llibre Vermell were meant to replace the traditional secular
songs and dances performed by the celebrating pilgrims during the night
vigil. Fitting to this task, the "Cants dels Romeus", the
songs of the pilgrims, have a popular tone. Some Spanish traditional
melodies were probably also used, but their original lyrics were substituted
by religious texts which should communicate essential points of the
christian doctrine of salvation to the faithful. The erudite and and
well-travelled monks from Montserrat also combined musical influences
from different European regions.
MP3 arrangements from Llibre Vermell
Arranged for solo guitar, with choral background accompaniment
Virgenum - MP3 sample
Imperaytritz Dela Ciutat
Los Set Goys
O Virgo Splendens
Ad Mortem Festinamus
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Legends Of Montserrat
are many legends concerning the mountains and monastery of Montserrat.
One legend tells that in the year 880, on a Saturday night when the
sun was going down over Montserrat, some boy shepherds saw a bright
light coming down from the sky, accompanied by beautiful music. The
following Saturday they returned with their parents. And the vision
came to them again. On the following four Saturdays the Rector of Olesa
went with them. And everyone saw the vision.
As soon as he heard about what had happened, the Bishop of Manresa arranged
a visit. A grotto was seen where the image of the Holy Mother of God
was found. The Bishop suggested that the image be taken to Manresa,
but as soon as it was lifted up, it became so heavy that it could not
be moved. The Bishop
interpreted this as the manifestation of the will of the Virgin to stay
in that place. He ordered a chapel to Mary to be built and that she
be worshipped on the mountain of Montserrat.
The Black Virgin
& Mary Magdalene
If it is true that a large proportion of the ancient miraculous Madonnas
of the world are black, why is this phenomenon generally so little known
today? A poetic verse from 1629 catalogues some of the national shrines
of Europe, all of which, at the heart, seem to represent an ancient
tradition of devotion to a statue of the Black Virgin. Many such Black
Virgins exist, often having survived centuries of war, some in large
basilicas, others in village churches, yet others in museums and libraries.
Many more are also in private hands, for a variety of reasons.
Some are painted statues, others are murals or paintings, and some are
statues carved from ebony.
Some of the most famous Black Virgin shrines are Chartes, Loreto, Zaragoza,
Rocamadour, Montserrat, and Guadalupe. Early textual references describing
images of Black Virgins are few, although Peter Comestor (12th c. biblical
scholar of Troyes and Paris), St. Bernard of Clairvaux (an early leader
of the medieval Knights Templar) and Nicephorus Callixtus (1256-1335),
the Byzantine church historian, all have had something to say on this
There is also a strong religious folk tradition connecting the Black
Virgins to the medieval Knights Templar and also with Mary Magdelene.
A famous Black Virgin - la Madone des Fenestres (the Madonna of the
Windows), near St-Martin-de-Vesubie (one site where many Templars were
massacred) was believed by folk tradition in the area to have originally
been brought to southern France by Mary Magdelene. Whether such legends
spring from a kernel of truth, or are purely legendary, it is still
intriguing to examine the sheer number of such place-names, legends,
and beliefs about these subjects and their interconnections, at least
in the popular mind. And that in itself says something.
Montserrat & The Holy Grail
to the Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia (1968 version), Montserrat
was thought in the Middle Ages to have been the site of the castle which
contained the Holy Grail. Says the encyclopedia, "The Renaissance
church contains a black wooden image of the Virgin, carved, according
to tradition, by St. Luke. In the Middle Ages the mountain, also called
Monsalvat, was thought to have been the site of the castle of the Holy
In Christian mythology,
the Holy Grail was the dish, plate, cup or vessel that caught Jesus'
blood during his crucifixion. It was said to have the power to heal
all wounds. A theme joined to the Christianized Arthurian mythos relates
to the quest for the Holy Grail.
A number of knights undertook the quest for the Grail, in tales that
have become annexed to the Arthurian mythos. Some of these tales tell
of knights who succeeded, like Percival or the virginal Galahad; others
tell of knights who failed to achieve the grail because of their tragic
flaws, like Lancelot. In Wolfram's telling, the Grail was kept safe
at the castle of Munsalvaesche (mons salvationis) or Montsalvat, entrusted
to Titurel, the first Grail-King. Some, not
least the monks of Montserrat, have identified the castle with the real
sanctuary of Montserrat in Catalonia.
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