Medieval Spain had two famous places of pilgrimage: Santiago de Compostela and Santa Maria de Montserrat. Situated on a cleft mountain near Barcelona, the monastery of Montserrat was the center of devotion for the Virgin Mary for all of Catalonia. The monastery was founded around 1025 as a branch of the benedictine monastery of Ripoll. Legend tells us that the Virgin Mary performed miracles there which explains the fact that the mountain had been inhabited by hermits as early as the end of the ninth century. During this time the mountain was reconquered from the "Saracens" and conveyed to the monastery of Ripoll by the counts Wifredo and Suner. The monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat originated out of one of the hermitages. A large number of pilgrims went there, mainly because of their belief in the wonder-working power of the black statue of the Virgin Mary which was put up around the year 1200. The monastery was also a cultural center of the first order: some of the monks had studied at far away universities like Paris or Bologna. Clerics from noble Spanish families, mostly from Catalonia, represented the aristocracy in Montserrat through their celebration of daily masses. This is how Montserrat became the spiritual, cultural and political center of Catalonia. With the conquests of the Catalon-Aragonese crown, Montserrat became "famous" worldwide: Churches were built in honour of the Virgin from Montserrat in Mexico, Chile and Peru. In the colonies, islands and settlements were named after her. After the almost complete devastation of the monastery by Napoleon in 1811, Montserrat regained its former significance only during the Catalonian 'Renaixença' at the end of the nineteenth century.
The most precious treasure from the library of Montserrat is a codex from the late fourteenth century, the 'Llibre Vermell' or 'Red Book'. The manuscript is named after it's red velvet cover which stems from the late 19th century. 35 of the original 172 sheets in folio of this manuscript are lost today. Besides various other contents, mainly for liturgical use, one of the fascicles (folio 21v - 27r) contains ten musical works (notated during the years 1396-1399).
Resplendent star on the mountain, like a sunbeam miraculously glowing, hear the people.
All joyous people come together: rich and poor, young and old, climb the mountain to see with their own eyes, and return from it filled with grace.
Rulers and magnates of royal stirpes, the mighty of the world, possessing grace, proclaim their sins, beating their breast, and call on bended knee: Ave Maria.
Prelates and barons with their noble suite, all monks and also priests, soldiers, merchands, citizens, sailors, townspeople and fishermen are praising here.
Peasants, ploughmen and also scribes, advocates, stone-masons and all carpenters, tailors and shoemakers and also weavers, all craftsmen thank here.
Queens, countesses, illustrious ladies of power and maidens, young girls, virgins and old women and widows, climb the mountain, and also nuns.
The community is gathered here to make a vow, to give thanks and to fulfil the vow for the glory of this place, so that all may see and return in joy, partaking of salvation.
We shall all - of both sexes - pray, and full of humility confess our sins to the glorious virgin, mother of clemency, so that in heaven we may be with the merciful.
Canon in two or three voices:
Shining sovereign be our advocate. Virgin Mother. Beating our breast we confess our guilt, oh Lord.