A few Sundays ago at short notice my friends & I decided to remove ourselves from Barcelona city to stretch our legs in the surrounding countryside. The areas north & west of Barcelona are quite mountainous, so just driving out that way with a vague idea of somewhere to head for opens up a range of possibilities. Five of us set out mid-morning, the day being bright & feeling promising; we didn't want to go too far so we settled on visiting the converted monastery of St. Llorenç del Munt, which, as we found, is a very popular spot with the locals.
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The monstery of St. Llorenç del Munt is situated atop a rocky mountain massif in the county (comarca) of Vallès Occidental, central Catalunya, & is just under 40km north-west of central Barcelona. It is perched at the highest peak of the massif, La Mola, at an elevation of 1,104m (3, 623ft) above sea level.
Having parked up & gathered our lightweight packs containing water, snacks, etc, we set off up the very well trodden path that approaches the summit from the south-east. The walk is not so long, but fairly steep in places. There were alot of people traversing the path in both directions, scampering dogs, giggling or moaning children & joggers. It was a beautiful & sunny sunday afterall, & having this quality of landscape within a short distance of home is a privilege not to forsake.
The walk to La Mola summit took us about 45mins, there were times when we needed to use all four limbs to aid us in our ascent up the rock strewn wet gully that the path turns into for a short distance about halfway up. Along the way I began taking photos, as the views became increasingly more interesting & vast, the refreshing scent of wild sage sweept through the warm air.
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The site of the monastery is regarded as having been a religious centre for over a thousand years, & construction of the original structure began in 1045, taking almost 20 years to build, before its consecration by the bishop of Barcelona in 1064. The monastery was in use for several hundred years, but eventually fell into decline, its last known religious inhabitant being a Benedictine monk, who occupied the building until 1608. The site fell into disuse in the early part of the 17th century & has apparently not been used religiously since 1637. After almost 200 years of abandonment the monastery was destroyed by Napoleonic troops in 1809, who also desecrated the abbots' graves.
The current building was restored over a period of several decades between the late 19th & mid 20th centuries, using local red stone, & is considered a rarity, being an exact replica of the original Romanesque structure. The church consists of 3 naves & a bell tower, is modest in size & has an unrefined & rustic appearance.
The monastery now serves as a tourist attraction, & is home to a restaurant. It does however contain an alter that is well kept & illuminated by candlelight for the purpose of attracting those who wish to use it as a place of worship.
After a short rest while I took some photographs around the church, we re-located to the west of the building to partake of lunch & siesta time. The surrounding area is Parque Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac, deemed a place of cultural interest since 1931, & attracts climbers as well as casual hikers & day visitors like ourselves. The views out towards Montserrat are wonderful, & if one looks carefully, down in the valley below, there are villas & olive groves nestled amongst the densely treed forests.
The monastery is a little too close to the city to be useful in an apocalypse situation, but sometime we'll be heading to more remote mountain locations in search of the perfect retreat.....& you'd be very lucky to find out where ;)
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