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Flying Visit to Montserrat, III: Manresa by night

The last of these photo posts from my rush April 2018 trip to Catalonia covers the evening of the day covered in the previous one. With the later part of the day still free after my climb nearly to the top of Montserrat itself, once my legs had stopped trembling I was able to consider further plans, and it struck me that at that time I was still sort of working on the area around Manresa and had never been to see it, and Manresa is a direct train ride from Monistrol de Montserrat. So I decided to head to Manresa for dinner and see what there was to see. Of course, by the time I got there it was evening, so I was seeing it in the dark, and I hadn’t then worked out my camera’s night settings properly, but still, I think some of the results came out OK.

La Seu de Manresa seen from the road from the station

La Seu de Manresa seen from the road from the station

The station at Manresa sits at the top of a hill, and then the city sort of falls down the slope towards the river where the medieval core is, and the medieval core is represented more or less by three major features. The collegiate basilica of Santa Maria is very definitely the one you see first, as it sits on a promontory all by itself.

La Seu de Santa Maria de Manresa by night

Here she is again, from the other side

But as you approach it, the signage tends to indicate a belief that you’re primarily here for something else, and that something is Ignatius de Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

Capella de Sant Marc de Manresa and la Cova de Sant Ignasi, in Manresa, by night

The Capella de Sant Marc and la Cova de Sant Ignasi

Now, that great Christian figure is not here except in spirit, but as you can see quite a lot has been done to invoke him. The little building in the lower register of that photograph is a chapel where he used to pray a lot, but the huge structure above it is the front that has now been built onto the cave where he had his early visions. If you look this thing up anywhere on the web or the city’s signage, it’s called la Cova, the cave. I think you could be forgiven (and isn’t that the point, after all? but I digress) for wondering, if you had come here to see the famous cave, where it was, since that really isn’t what I, at least, think a cave looks like…

The Pont Vell de Manresa

The Pont Vell, in the dark

Right by it, however, just off the same roundabout as the chapel, is something more genuinely medieval, the Romanesque bridge over the Riu Cardener. I just couldn’t get a good image of this, though there are some excellent (daylight) pictures of it on the web; the lack of street lighting on the far side or actually in the river meant that the far arches just weren’t visible to the camera, and a good angle is hard to get anywway without standing in the middle lane of the roundabout. But of course, it’s a big medieval bridge, so I went over it.

Pathway over the Pont Vell de Manresa

Although the bridge is big, its actual walkway wouldn’t accommodate much, maybe three people abreast? They must either have had narrow carts or brought them in some other way…

It has to be said that if I’d been trying this sixty years before it wouldn’t have been possible, as the middle of the bridge was bombed out during the Spanish Civil War, so while most of it is twelfth or thirteenth century – because nature also did a number on it a couple of times in the twelfth century, apparently – at the middle you’re on 1960s reconstruction. But, since there was basically nothing on the other side, once I’d been there I came back and stopped at the 1960s peak, to take a look at the city.

La Seu de Santa Maria de Manresa seen from the Pont Vell

Santa Maria, seen from the Pont Vell

The Cova de Sant Ignasi, in Manresa, seen from the Pont Vell by night

The Cova de Sant Ignasi, likewise

The Riu Cardener passing below the Pont Vell de Manresa, by night

The waters of the Cardener, roiling beneath the arches

As you can see, ‘light pollution’ is a term the city of Manresa has yet to encounter, but it makes for some good photography opportunities all right. Now, however, the only thing really left to do before seeking food – and it was getting on for a time of evening at which even Catalans would consider eating by now – was have a closer look at la Seu.

Approach to la Seu de Santa Maria de Manresa

The approach to Santa Maria, giving a flavour of its somewhat mixed architectures

There was a Santa Maria de Manresa in the town even in my study period, as I think I’ve mentioned, but it got destroyed in a Muslim raid that may have hit the town in 1003, thus wiping out the possibilities of studying the area through anything except the documents of the extra-mural monastery of Sant Benet de Bages (and increasingly copious archaeology, of course). A replacement was soon built, but apparently had its problems because in 1322 it was decided to build a new one instead. However, this one then took 160 years to finish, which may be some kind of reason as to why it’s such a, er, catholic piece of architecture.

Detailing around the tower of Santa Maria de Manresa by night

Detailing around the tower

Grotesques protruding from the upper architecture of Santa Maria de Manresa

Beastie-shaped grotesques protruding at all angles (as long as they’re horizontal)

La Porta de Santa Maria at la Seu de Manresa, by night

La Porta de Santa Maria, an architectural feature that had been deemed to deserve its own signage, and why not?

Traces of earlier apertures in the walls of Santa Maria de Manresa

And this brickwork shows signs of previous doorways that tell us that the signage doesn’t have all the answers

What intrigued me most, however, not being able to get in to see some of the finer features because of the time of night, was that the area round the church is now a late-night youth hang-out and apparent focus for the disaffected. But this didn’t mean rubbish, needles, and so on, beyond a few burger wrappers anyway, because in Catalonia disaffection is often very articulate.

South face of the apse end of Santa Maria de Manresa

South face of the apse end of Santa Maria

Let’s get closer to that for a minute…

Graffiti on the south face of the apse of Santa Maria de Manresa

"Fins i tot les paraules més sabies són només paraules."

For those not reading Catalan just yet, that translates as, “In the end, the wisest words are still only words.” Nor was this the only dictum of protest featuring here…

Graffiti on the north-facing wall of Santa Maria de Manresa

Graffiti on the north wall: "Qui és el teu Déu, arà? La Seu pel capital, doncs?.."

I’m not as sure how to translate this idiomatically, but it might be something close to, “Who is your god now? The See for Capital, more like!”

So there seem to be some angry people in Manresa. I have to say, I certainly didn’t find any friendly ones that night. It was still a bit early to eat, so not all the restaurants were open, but those that were had no interest in my custom. I got sort of politely turned away from one with no space (which seemed to be true) and after some time looking for another one I liked the look of, when I found one, found that it has a waiter who decided he couldn’t understand the tourist with bad Catalan asking about eating. I’d have said it was pretty obvious what I was after, but maybe not, I don’t know. Either way, I found myself defeated. Now quite hungry, I balanced my options: to keep looking for places I didn’t know were there and hope my Catalan recovered from this blow to its ego enough to get to sit down? Or to seek alternatives? Cowed, I chose the latter and got back on the train to Monistrol.

The Bestorre above Monistrol de Montserrat, lit up with the village below

And it has to be said, there are worse places to be than Monistrol. This is the village viewed from partway up the hill to Montserrat, and the outcrop to the right is called the Bestorre, and I could find out pretty much nothing about the spotlit tower on top of it, at least not then

I’m not sure I had a plan, but there are two cafés right in the middle of Monistrol (there may not in fact be more of Monistrol than the middle) and they were both doing a lively trade. I settled exhausted into one, Ca la Rosa, and managed to order some tapes and beer, which they kindly supplied and which turned out to be good, and slowly my evening was mended. I still hope to make friends with Manresa some day; but on this occasion Monistrol was the better place to be, and I hope to go back and thank it again in some future day. May we all hope for such some day soon, and in the meantime the memory of better times and good tapes can hopefully help!


Rather than load this photographic post with academic apparatus, I’ve linked such academic sources as I’ve used (and the non-academic ones as well). If there’s no obvious source for something I’ve said, I got it from signage at the Pont Vell or la Seu de Santa Maria. And for anyone wondering how cassettes helped with my dinner, tapes is Catalan for tapas

4 responses to “Flying Visit to Montserrat, III: Manresa by night

  1. “it has a waiter who decided he couldn’t understand the tourist with bad Catalan asking about eating.” Maybe he was from Barcelona.

  2. Unfortunately, a waiter pretending not to understand catalan it’s becoming usual those days. :-(

    • I’m not sure my Catalan was good enough to understand, but I would have thought that a waiter might guess what someone turning up at his restaurant at dinner time wanted. Still, I can’t rule out that he thought I was begging, I suppose…

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