Santa Maria from Montserrat: a Spanish Lady on Elba

Monserrat is the most important sacred place of Catalogna and one of the main sanctuaries inside the Iberian Peninsula. At least since the IX century, Monserrat has guarded the small image of Virgin Mary with her baby (famously known as “La Moreneta”, “La Scura”), which, according to the tradition, was actually realised by the apostle Luca and was brought to Spain by San Pietro.

So what does this have to do with Tuscany? Well, for centuries, one of San Pietro’s most treasured works of art, which was in fact a replica of a painting completed by an anonymous artist, was kept in an isolated little church, located in Mount Castello, one of the most unaccessible places on Elba Island. The spectacular Mount Castello can be found right behind Porto Azzuro, a hilly landscape, surrounded by cliffs and vegetation that is typically Meditarrenean, which is reminiscent of the Catalan countryside: Or so Pons and Léon thought, two powerful Spanish governors of this part of Elba Island. Whilst back in his homeland of Monserrat, San Pietro was overcome with nostalgia so he found great faith and devotion in Monserrat’s lady. This infact was the inspiration behind his construction of a 125 metres high sanctuary which is almost Spanish Baroque in style, in the years between 1603 and 1606. The devout governor then went on to create an identical copy of a painting called “The Madonna and the Baby of Montserrat”, painted by an anonymous artist, which was to be put inside the Elban Church. Consequently, the work of San Pietro on Elba Island made the governors Pons and Léon feel as if they were at home. However this distant place quickly started to attract monarchs and monks who had been searching for a place dedicated to mediation and prayer. Inevitably, encouraging the governor Ed and numerous other inhabitants of the island to go up there to pray to Madonna and they made some testimonies that over the centuries sailors and Elban fisherman would give their thanks for the thanks they received inside the sanctuary. The importance of the sacred building grew so much that in the course of the eighteenth century it was extended.

Due to its unaccessible location, this region has remained almost completely untouched and consequently the small church of Santa Maria of Monserrato still just looks like a stained stone lost within the immense greenery of the mountains. An oasis of peace that has rarely happened elsewhere, it’s fascination has remained unchanged for some years. By now, the monks are disappearing, but their silence has remained. Except on the 8th September this year, which is the day that the festival of Madonna happens, when the little sanctuary quickly became a place of pilgrimage again like it has been in the previous centuries.

A place of peace, like we have already said. But the immediate vicinities were also a theatre of eighteenth century battles, between the Spanish and the Germans who aimed to dominate the island. In fact, from just a little distance away, there is still visibility of the rest of the fortifications, which were tragic and terrible events. More so, it spread to the inhabitants of Porto Azzurro with their impregnable force. In front of all of it was the sea, that one time was filled with Saracen pirates that from this part carried death and desolation. But by now the sea is quiet and still. A blue and infinite stretch that sweetly caresses two distant costs, but then joined the faith in Madonna of Monserrat: which is full of sour rocks from the Elba island and the sand of Catalogna.

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Commenti (2) | March 16, 2010

2 Responses to “Santa Maria from Montserrat: a Spanish Lady on Elba”

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    March 31st, 2012 at 12:01

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