Montserrat to Manresa reprised

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.

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The view of Montserrat from my room in the Cova de St Ignasi at the International Centre for Ignatian Spirituality at Manresa, Spain

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.

The Wikiloc app for the iPhone

The Wikiloc app for the iPhone

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:

27 Motserrat-Manresa_0

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The descent from Montserrat to Manresa

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.

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The hotel I stayed in at Montserrat

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The entrance to the Basilica at Montserrat

The interior of the Basilica at Montserrat

The interior of the Basilica at Montserrat. The Black Madonna is above the altar.

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The Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat

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.

The Black Madonna at the Basilica at Montserat

The Black Madonna at the Basilica at Montserrat

It is seven-thirty in the morning and I am ready to begin my walk

It is seven-thirty in the morning and I am ready to begin my walk

A restaurant perched on the mountain side at Montserrat

A restaurant perched on the mountain side at Montserrat

The view down the mountain

The view down the mountain

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.

Looking back up at the mountain

Looking back up at the mountain

We stopped here in 2013 to look back at Montserrat

We stopped here in 2013 to look back at Montserrat

I stopped for a cool drink at a roadside restaurant called El Raco. I remember that we stopped there in 2013.

I stopped for a drink at El Raco

I stopped for a drink at El Raco

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.

Coming into Castellgali

Coming into Castellgali

Looking back at Montserrat from Castellgali

Looking back at Montserrat from Castellgali

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.

The tap is still providing cool water

The tap is still providing cool water

Me keeping cool in the middle of a very hot afternoon

Me keeping cool in the middle of a very hot afternoon back in 2013

Trying to keep cool in 34C heat

Trying to keep cool in 34C heat

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.

The old Roman road just outside Castellgali

The old Roman road just outside Castellgali

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.

One of the hazards of the Ignatian Camino is speeding traffic —now pilgirms are protected somewhat by concrete blocks

One of the hazards is speeding traffic —now pilgrims are protected somewhat by concrete blocks

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.

The place where two Dominican Sisters were martyred in 1936

The place where two Dominican Sisters were martyred in 1936

Some shade was very welcome by early afternoon

Some shade was very welcome by early afternoon

Finally I get a glimpse of the city of Manresa.

My first view of Manresa

My first view 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.

The spot where we regrouped on 1 October in order to all arrive at Manresa at the same time

The spot where we regrouped on 1 October 2013 in order to all arrive at Manresa at the same time

Basílica de Santa María (L) and the Cova de Sant Ignatius (R)

Basílica de Santa María (L) and the Cova de Sant Ignatius (R). Nearly there.

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.

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The view of the Cova de St Ignasi International Centre of Ignatian Spirituality from under the bridge

 

 

4 thoughts on “Montserrat to Manresa reprised

  1. Hello, Fr. Smith. I have done the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to Santiago in 2011. I am doing it again this September, 2016 but I am only walking from Ponferrada to Santiago. I will have time in my hands after I reach Santiago and after reading your article, I am now planning to walk from MONTSERRAT TO MANRESA, before I return to the Philippines where I reside. I will take the train or bus from Santiago or from Madrid to Montserrat. I have always been interested in St. Ignatius since I took up my college and finished in the Jesuit university in Manila, Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila University. Thank you for your article, Fr. Smith. I found it very inspiring. …..Mackie Cui.

  2. Hi Michael. I’m going to Manresa in May for the 6 week immersion. I’m so grateful to have been accepted. This description was great, as I’m very drawn to the idea of walking from Montserrat to Manresa while I’m there, if time allows. Hope you’re well. Regards, Anne

  3. Dear Anne,
    It is good to hear that you will walk from Montserrat to Manresa. Make sure you download the Wikiloc app to your mobile phone which will guide yo along the correct route. You then search for:
    Montserrat – Manresa Etapa 27 Camino Ignaciano
    This will help you not to get lost along the way.
    Michael

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