Just a few kilometres from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, in the municipal district of Badalona, there’s an oasis of peace and calm that’s well worth discovering, namely the Monastery of Sant Jeroni de la Murtra, founded 600 years ago by the order of Saint Jerome. The complex boasts a very well preserved cloister and a wonderful refectory. The best way to explore it is on one of the guided tours that are periodically organised there or, even better, by staying overnight! For a token price, eight monastic cells are available to those who wish to spend a few days in solitude and silence.
The Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat is another place where there’s no need to hang the “Do not disturb” sign on your door because there’s no chance of anyone bothering you. The Abbot Marcet monastic cells are well known by people who need to prepare for civil service exams, enjoy a spiritual retreat or make progress on writing a book. But they’re also popular with visitors who wish to explore, at their own pace, the wide variety of leisure, cultural and nature activities of the Benedictine basilica.
If what most attracts you about the world of monasteries is their gastronomy, you should head to Món Sant Benet, a cultural and tourism-related facility split into various areas around the mediaeval Monastery of Sant Benet, in Sant Fruitós de Bages. One of its highlights is the gastronomic research centre run by the Alícia Foundation and L'Ó, a Michelin-starred restaurant.
A very special sanctuary stands at the top of the Serra de Queralt range, at an altitude of 1,200 metres, on a site previously occupied by the castle of the nobleman and troubadour Guillem of Berguedà. We’re obviously referring to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria de Queralt, known as the “balcony of Catalonia” thanks to its breathtaking views. You can make your way up there on the funicular that departs from the car park or on foot, on the steps that wind their way around the mountain. Once you get to the top, make sure you visit the cave where the venerated statue of the Virgin Mary was found.
Another site of spiritual interest is the Sanctuary of the Cave of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Manresa, since in these natural rock shelters with a view of Montserrat, the founder of the Jesuit order found the inspiration he needed to compose his famous exercises for the soul. What’s more, the International Spirituality Centre regularly holds personal growth seminars, workshops and retreats there with activities involving concepts of interiority, prayer and silence drawn from Christianity, Zen or Buddhism.
- Would you like to further explore the teachings of the saint? Why not go on a pilgrimage along the Ignatian Way?