The hermitage of Mare de Déu de Montsant

Ermita de la Mare de Déu de Montsant.

The shrine of "Mare de Deu de Montsant" is situated over a thousand metres high. At the end of a plain where begins the Pèlags' ravine, depression which is between Serra Major and the mountains which border of Ulldemolins valley.

The hermitage has its origins in hermit foundations in the twelfth century and belongs to the parish village of Albarca. In the medieval times had an important devotion by the surrounding populations: Albarca, Cornudella de Montsant, la Morera de Montsant and Ulldemolins, mainly. Formerly it was a place for pilgrimage and gatherings during different moments of the year. We also know many prayers processions demanding rain and other celestial favours.

With the years, the sanctuary lost importance. The reason can be the strategic tool to reinforce the control of the territory by the Charterhouse of Escaladei, who owns it since the fifteenth century. Santa Maria de Montsant, who was owned by the Cistercian monastery of Bonrepòs, was owned by the carthusians. Towards 1540 was built a new building, the current, near the cliff, which shows the limit of the territory of Escaladei - actually, la Morera del Montsant - with Ulldemolins.

Near the hermitage we can see the ruins of what it was the chapel  or "ermitori". It's in that moment when appears the image of Mare de Déu who, according to legend, was found by a bull. As the old joys explain:

"És per certa declarada
la causa que estau aquí,
pues un bou vos descubrí,
ya desjunyit de la arada,
y prop de alsinas trobada
per qui estave llaurant.
Siau de tots Advocada…
Después de haver-vos trobat,
fòreu molt solemnement
portada al Real Convent
Escaladei anomenat;
però la vostra pietat
volguer ser aquí habitant.
Siau de tots Advocada…
En terreno cartuyxà
és fundada la capella,
que essent xica ans, y vella
se féu nova, y transmudà;
però en vós lo amparà
és ya cosa antigua, y gran.
Siau de tots Advocada…"

Close to the hermitage we can find the ruins of the hermits' house, which the church had until XX century

In the nineteenth century, with the confiscation of the goods of the Charterhouse, the sanctuary was left and became a stockyard. The image of Mare de Déu, gothic, was taken down to Albarca's parish. In 1909 was restored for worship as hermitage assigned to the parish of the village. This image was destroyed in 1936

The hermitage, traditionally, held two festivals: one in spring and the other in summer. Albarca has one of the few local traditions about Sant Jordi older than the actual day of the books and the roses: a vote’s festivity, older than XVIII century, asking for protection of the Saint against the bites of scorpions and snakes. At the beginning of XX century, the young people of Albarca were tossing the village firing shots with their guns in celebration signal.

Nowadays, they go tho the Churcht on 23 of April. The pilgrimage to Mare de Deu which takes place the 17th of August, the third day of the festival of Albarca, day when the people of the other surrounding villages as Cornudella, la Morera and Ulldemolins, pilgrim to the hermitage. It makes a "MISSA" that ends with the singing of the traditional joys of the Mother of God, then there's a meal.

Text: Natural Park of Serra de Montsant