A 1 hour drive norththwest of Barcelona is the remarkable Santa Maria de Monserrat Monastery, nestled among the Monserrat mountain range. The easiest way to access the monastery is to take the Funicular to the top. The ride offers a stunning panoramic view of the jagged mountains below. Montserrat was the first national park in Spain. The black statue of the Virgin Mary clutching baby Jesus dates back to the 12th century. Local legend claims that the Benedictine monks were forced to build their monastery around the statue because none of them could physically move it. In 1844, the Virgin of Montserrat was deemed the patron saint of Catalonia by Pope Leo XIII. For this, Monserrat is one of Catalunyas most spiritually and culturally significant places.