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:

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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

 

 

We have arrived in Manresa!

 

John Ng, Andy Walsh, Sarah Davies, Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ and Gillian McIlwain

John Ng, Andy Walsh, Sarah Davies, Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ and Gillian McIlwain at Manresa. The Jesuit Retreat House is the large building to the right of Gillian. It is built over the cave where Saint Ignatius had some of his mystical visions.

 

Gillian McIlwain writes:

Dear Michael,
We have finally made it to Manresa! Thank you for your encouragement. 
We are thrilled, as a group, to have completed the Ignatian Camino, as you would understand.

Fr Iriberri SJ has been a wonderful leader and guide. And Slow Walking have been excellent in their support and planning. We have much to share with you when we return to Australia.

Warmest Wishes, 
The Five Ignatian Pilgrims. 

Fr Iriberri's handiwork on Sarah's boot on the last leg just before Manresa.

Fr Iriberri’s handiwork on Sarah’s boot on the last leg just before Manresa. The bailing twine kept the sole from coming away from the upper.

Sarah writes:

“Day 24: Montserrat to Manresa. Our final full day walking, completing the Ignatian Camino.  My boots only just made it.  A temporary glue fix in Zaragoza came unstuck, so for the last 10 km they were held together with a piece of string!”

Sarah Davies’ photos

A local cow

The curious cow

Sarah writes:

“Day 16: Fraga to Lleida. Crossed the border today into Catalunya and back into more fertile farming land along the River Segre. This curious cow seemed to be raising and eyebrow and asking, ‘What are you doing here?’ A good question to ask on the Camino!”

Local farmland

Local farmland

Sarah writes:

“Day 17: Lleida to El Palau d’Anglesola. Continuing through farming country. Plenty of fruit trees, wheat, alfalfa and piggeries to add to the country sounds and smells.”

Wheat and poppies

Wheat and poppies

Sarah writes:

“Day 18: Palau d’Anglesola to Verdu. Wheat, oceans of green and gold wheat with some occasional poppies also sneaking in on the act.”

Mosaic of Saint Peter Claver in Verdu

Mosaic of Saint Peter Claver in Verdu

Sarah writes:

“Day 19: Rest Day in Verdu, a pretty little town of 1,00 people known for its pottery and for being the birth place of Saint Peter Claver, an inspiring Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to ministering to Africans taken to Colombia as part of the inhuman slave trade of the early 17th Century.”

Cervera up ahead

Cervera up ahead (see the tower on the right)

Sarah writes:

“Day 20: Verdu to Cervera.  Here we are with our target in sight.”

A snail on the trail

A snail on the trail

Sarah writes:

“Day 21: Cervera to Jorba. Some of the small things on the way.”

A view of Montserrat (the serrated mountains)

A view of Montserrat (the serrated mountains)

Sarah writes:

“Day 22: Jorba to Montserrat. On the ascent to the Benedictine monastery where Saint Ignatius made his final decision to change his life. Our physical pilgrimage is nearing its end, but the interior journey will last for some time yet I think.”

Goats which live or about Montserrat

Goats which live on or about Montserrat

Sarah writes:

“Day 23: A full day’s rest at Montserrat, though I still felt like an early morning walk. Coming around a corner I had a feeling someone was watching me….”

A panoramic view of Montserrat

A panoramic view of Montserrat L to R, Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ, Andy Walsh and Sarah Davies (photo taken by John Ng)

Gillian McIlwain’s and John Ng’s photos

Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri

Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ

John Ng writes: “A cool smile of Fr Josep after walking 31.2 km today.”

John Ng, Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ, Sarah Davies and Gillian McIlwain with cyclists

John Ng, Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ, Sarah Davies and Gillian McIlwain with cyclists

Gillian McIlwain writes:

“Here we are with a group of cycling Ignatian pilgrims who had left Loyola only 1 week ago and had been watching out for us along the way. They are a group of cyclists from Manresa who drove their cars and bikes to Loyola and started from there. 

They had written to Fr Iriberri SJ before they left and were expecting to see us along the way — of course they were thrilled when they found us at lunch just outside La Panadella! They passed us a few times between our lunch stop and Jorba. 

We are setting out for Montserrat tomorrow and are ready to change our clothes and become the true pilgrims walking to Jerusalem!”

Sarah Davies’ photos on the road

Sancho Panza

Sancho Panza

Sarah writes:

“Gailur to Alagon. If you know Don Quixite, we came across his sidekick Sancho Panza today. He looked like he was with us on our pilgrimage journey.”

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza

Sarah writes:

“Day 12 — Rest Day in Zaragoza. We visited the patroness of Spain here at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar on the bank of the Ebro Rover. For the rowing girls, if you look carefully you can see a boat on racks in the foreground. I didn’t see anyone actually on the river though, despite the good weather.”

Flowers by the roadside

Flowers by the roadside

Fields that have been bailed

Fields that have been bailed

One small dandelion

One small dandelion

More photos on the road

Fello pilgrim with Fr Jose Lluis Iriberri SJ

Fellow pilgrim with Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ

Gillian McIlwain writes:

“Just after leaving Logrono this morning we met this fellow pilgrim doing the Ignatian Camino on his own. He was averaging 40 kms each day and had left Loyola only 5 days earlier!! Wonderful.  We are foot sore but enjoying both our inner and outer challenging journeys.”

Storks guarding their young

Storks guarding their young

Sarah Davies writes:

“From Alfara, the place of many storks, to Tudela.  Storks guarding their young on church spires and any other high spot they could find.”

Wine country

Wine country

Sarah writes:

“Still in wine country today, walking beside rocky hills with many vultures circling above. Thankfully all made it without providing them a meal!”

Leaving Laguardia behind

Leaving Laguardia behind

Sarah writes:

“Leaving Laguardia behind we head through wine country to Navarrete where we encounter pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.”

Time to smell the roses

Time to smell the roses

Photos from the Ignatian Camino

Basque farm house

A Basque farm house

Andy Walsh on the road from Loyola to Zumarraga on Day 1

Andy Walsh on the road from Loyola to Zumarraga on Day 1

View from the top of the mountain

The scene from the top of the mountain on Day 2 (that’s Fr Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ taking in the view)

Wild flowers on the mountain

Wild flowers on the mountain

Sarah Davies writes:

“Magnificent views again today, but there was also great beauty at our feet.”

Sarah Davies having a rest on the Ignatian Camino

Sarah Davies having a rest on the Ignatian Camino

Sarah writes:

“When we are not on the top of the mountains we are walking though beautiful forests. Here I am in all my walking gear.”

Farmlands

Wheat fields

The door to a local church

The door to the church of Santa Maria de los Reyes

Inside the church

Altarpiece at the church of Santa Maria de los Reyes showing scenes from the Gospel

Sarah Davies writes:

“On our rest day in Laguardia we had some tourist time visiting the old city including the church of Santa Maria de los Reyes.”