On 1 October 2013 our group of twenty pilgrims walked Stage 27 of the Ignatian Camino from Montserrat to Manresa. In September-October 2013 I was with the group of twenty pilgrims — Dani Chamberlin, Amanda Hickey, Helen Lucas, Jan Sebastian, John Fitzgerald, Joe Taylor, Kay Quisenberry, Larry and Geraldine Naismith, Michael Bertie and Jan Fitzpatrick, Paddy Mugavin, Patrick Hynes, Peter and Chona Walden, Sandra and Vin Dillon, Tracy Ling and Stephen Delbridge — that was the first group to walk the Ignatian Camino from Loyola to Manresa.
Almost three years later, having just completed an eight-day retreat at the Cova de St Ignasi at the International Centre for Ignatian Spirituality in Manresa, Spain, as I looked out my window I had the idea of retracing our steps on the last Stage from Montserrat to Manresa.
So, on 16 July 2016, I did. I took the train to Montserrat and stayed overnight. Then at 7.30am I began to retrace our steps. My sense of direction is not very acute, and I didn’t have Larry Naismith, Michael Bertie and Peter Walden to help with navigation as I had three years ago, so I was concerned about getting lost. However, the Wikiloc app for the iPhone proved to be an incredible help. It warned me when I got off track, which only happened once during the day.
I also had a paper copy of the map in my pocket and Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ’s description of the 27th stage on the official web site:
Some of the track was as I remembered it, but some of the route has, I think, been changed as you get closer to Manresa.
I left the hotel at the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat at 7.00am and went over to the Basilica to make a visit to the same Black Madonna as Ignatius did in 1522. He made a general confession and then an all-night vigil before the image of the Black Madonna. Sensing a desire to spend a few days in a hospice recording some reflections, he then made his way to a nearby town called Manresa. He would remain there almost eleven months, and it was here that Ignatius wrote down his experiences of God, which became the Spiritual Exercises. I wanted to retrace his path too.
Then I walked down the road through the car parks and headed towards the hermitage of St. Cecilia about 3.5km away. At the shrine of St. Cecilia I left the road and took a track paved down to the right, which led to Sant Cristofol.
It was on this section that the decent was steep and the walking very slow as I picked my way down rocks and stones. I was very grateful for the walking poles, which I purchased from an Arab shopkeeper in Jerusalem. It would have been almost impossible for me to go down without the steadying help of walking poles.
I stopped for a cool drink at a roadside restaurant called El Raco. I remember that we stopped there in 2013.
After 14.3km I reached Castellgalí. Only ten kilometres to go and the sun was getting very hot just before midday. I again purchased a cool drink. I was pleased that I did because by the time I got to Manresa I had drunk the entire 3 litres of water in my Camelbac.
It was at Castellgalí that we stopped in 2013 stopped in a small park. Here Helen and Tracy went on the seesaw. It is still functional.
There was a water faucet there at which I drenched my head. That is still functional too.
Just after Castellgalí the track follows an old Roman road, which in medieval times was the road which pilgrims from Manresa took on their way up to the monastery at Montserrat. How did they manage the climb up? I found the climb down difficult enough.
There is a section of the track that has changed, for the better. In 2013 we had to walk along a highway for about 500 metres with traffic speeding past. It was quite risky. How concrete barriers have been installed to allow pedestrians some protection.
On the way into Manresa I passed an historical marker, which commemorates the martyrdom of two Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation from Manresa in1936 during the Spanish Civil War.
Finally I get a glimpse of the city of Manresa.
This is the stone wall where we stopped under some shade in 2013 and waited for Larry Naismith and Stephen Delbridge to catch up with us.
Next I saw the Tower of Santa Caterina, a former lookout tower. From there you get a magnificent view of Manresa including the Basilica of La Seu and the retreat house which houses La Cova de Sant Ignasi. Down by the Cardoner River is the Old Bridge which I crossed just as Ignatius of Loyola did almost 500 years ago.