The image of Our Lady of Montserrat, popularly known as La Moreneta (the Dark One), due to the dark colour of Her skin, is a truly beautiful 12th century carving. t depicts a seated Black Virgin with the child Jesus on her lap. Her dark color is due to changes in the varnish with the passage of time.
Pope Leo XIII proclaimed Our Lady of Montserrat Patron Saint of Catalonia in 1881.
Carved in wood, the statue is in a sitting position and measures slightly over three feet in height. In Romanesque style, the figure is slender, with an elongated face and a delicate expression. The dress of the Virgin consists of a tunic and cloak both gilded and plain in design which is draped. Beneath the crown is a veil adorned with stars, squares, and stripes in subtle shades of color. The right hand of the Virgin holds a sphere, while the other is extended in a graceful gesture. The Child Jesus sits on His Mother’s lap and also wears a crown and lovely garments. His right hand is raised in blessing; His left hand holds an object that resembles a large pine cone. A cushion serves as the Madonna’s footrest; she is seated upon a chair that has large legs and whose back is topped by cone-shaped finials. The statue is highly revered not only as a religious treasure, but also because of its artistic value. It is almost completely gilded, save the face and hands of both Our Lady and the Child Jesus [and His feet also]
According to Catholic tradition, this statue was carved by St. Luke around 50 AD and brought to Spain. It was later hidden from the Moors in a cave (Santa Cova, the Holy Grotto), and later discovered in 880 AD.
According to the legend of the discovery, which was first recorded in the 13th century, the statue was discovered by shepherds. They saw a bright light and heard heavenly music that eventually led them to the grotto and the statue.
The Bishop of Manresa, present at the discovery, suggested that it be moved to Manresa, but the small statue was discovered to be so heavy it could not be lifted. Thus the Virgin had indicated her will to stay on Montserrat to be venerated there.At last the statue of Our Lady was placed in a small church that was soon built; this little church developed into the present church that was completed in 1592.
The Madonna statue soon earned widespread fame as numerous miracles were associated with the intercession of the Black Virgin of Montserrat.
St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Francis Borgia, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St.Ignatius Loyola, and Josemaria Escriva are counted among the many pilgrims that throughout the centuries have gone to Our Lady of Montserrat to seek her intercession. It is also worthy of note that, St. Ignatius Loyola made a pilgrimage to Montserrat after being injured in war, and it was soon after that he wrote his famous Spiritual Exercises.