Resurfacing as a powerful archetype for our times, the Black Madonna symbolizes authenticity and empowerment. She represents the sacred inner realms of creativity, fertility and sexuality, as well as the cyclical nature of life, death and regeneration. Often associated with Mary Magdalene and the Gnostic teachings, pilgrims from all over the world have traveled to Spain throughout the centuries to experience the profound energies that emanate from her shrines.
Join us on an adventure of a lifetime where we will explore the history and imagery devoted to this fascinating archetype, while experiencing some of the most magnificent artistic and cultural treasures of the medieval world. Whether traveling solo or with your tribe, these magical itineraries may be customized to suit your personal budget and interests!
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In the Footsteps of the Pilgrims
Starting in Barcelona, we will travel through northern Spain to sites such as Montserrat, Zaragoza and Galicia.
Each carefully chosen shrine reveals a unique expression of the Black Madonna and this tour will culminate in Galicia on the pilgrim’s route known as the Camino de Santiago.
Barcelona-Montserrat-Zaragoza-Lerma-Leon-Santiago de Compostela
Old Town: Legends, traditions, stories passed down from generation to generation heard in only in these streets. All of these will come alive in our tour. The Gothic Quarter is the center of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere. It is a part of Ciutat Vella district.
Passeig de Gracia: This broad elegant avenue was built for and by the wealthy Barcelonians which have never left. Luxury and design shops line the street along with major banks and the stock exchange. Architectural details include modernist lampposts and Gaudí’s tiles for pavements and a myriad of grand buildings including two of Gaudí’s houses: Casa Batlló and Casa Milà-La Pedrera.
Park Güell: Here you will be led on a guided tour of this majestic park, which is one of the most unique landmarks in the world! It is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and is one of the most prominent landmarks in Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia: The jewel in the crown of Gaudí’s works, the temple is a synthesis of his overall conception of architecture. La Sagrada Família inspires awe by its sheer verticality, and in the manner of the medieval cathedrals it emulates, it’s still under construction after more than 100 years. When completed, the highest tower will be more than half as high again as those that stand today.
The mountain of Montserrat has always been a source of inspiration for myths and legends because of its singular form, and most importunately, the legend of the “Moreneta”, the Dark Maiden, the Virgin of Montserrat.
The word Montserrat, means “jagged or serrated mountain” in Catalan. The mountain is also called “La muntanya dels cent cims” (The mountain of 100 peaks) and is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock, popular with climbers. The summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above the valley floor. Montserrat, is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, and stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia, less than one hour from Barcelona.
Visiting the Black Madonna at Montserrat is a spiritual and worthwhile experience for anyone irrespective of their faith. You will see and meet lots of people on this day, many of whom have come as pilgrims to the statue – the atmosphere is electric which can serve to enhance your visit and make the most of the opportunity to take in your surroundings. The stairway leading to the statue, plus the room and altar in which the statue sits are ornate, golden and pay tribute to the wonder that is the Virgin herself.
The Black Madonna is sometimes referred to by other names, including ‘The Virgin of Montserrat’ and ‘La Moreneta’. The statue sits behind a sheet of glass. However, one of her hands (which is holding a sphere that symbolizes the universe) is not behind the glass. It is tradition for you to kiss or touch the Virgin’s hand whilst opening out your other hand to Jesus. Montserrat is considered one of the special “power spots” of the world. Electromagnetic fields are said to be strong here, and healing powers are attributed to the small dark figure. You will de enjoying a wonderful Mystical Spain Tour.
The statue became more and more famous after people started reporting miracles and attributing it with mystical healing powers. In 1881 the Montserrat Madonna was crowned in accordance with Canon Law. Its fame still attracts flocks of pilgrims who come to the sacred mountain either to take part at the monks’ daily celebrations of Mass and recitations of the Liturgy of the Hours or to visit the Basilica, next to the monastery, and see La Moreneta.
During this trip to Mystical Spain, you will visit Zaragoza, the capital of northeastern Spain’s Aragon region. Overlooking the Ebro River in the city center is baroque Nuestra Señora del Pilar basilica, a famous pilgrimage site with a shrine to the Virgin Mary and multiple domes.
Mudéjar-style landmarks, combining Islamic and Gothic architecture, include the Aljafería, an 11th-century Moorish palace, and the Cathedral of the Savior, begun in the 12th century.
We suggest that you visit the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar; the top attraction in Zaragoza. Housing some of Spain’s most magnificent treasures, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is the single most important landmark of the city of Zaragoza in Spain.
Standing tall in Baroque style, it is said to be the first church named for the Virgin Mary after a vision of her took place here in 40 AD. It is said that the small wooden statue of her given to St. James in the vision still resides in the basilica. A Roman style stone pillar from the 15th century holds a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.
Our Lady of the Pillar is considered the patroness of Spain, and the site draws thousands of pilgrims each year. It is the second biggest church in Spain (after the Seville Cathedral,) and its plaza in front is the largest pedestrian plaza in the country. Its holy chapel is painted by the famous artist Goya.
Driving through to Lerma is beautiful. We will go through the countryside and see some beautiful sights on the way. The drive there would take around 3 hours. On the way there, we will stop at very picturesque locations which are virtually unspoiled regions in Spain. We will be stopping in Logroño and Burgos.
Logroño is a city rich in history and traditions which have been preserved since the Middle Ages. The Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela made this one of the most important towns on the route, leaving an interesting monumental legacy closely linked to the traditional passing of the pilgrims.
Burgos, a city in Castilla-Leon situated in the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela, still preserves important vestiges of its medieval splendor. The city, which was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon for five centuries, boasts a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture: the cathedral of Burgos, declared World Heritage. Aside from a visit to the historic quarter, you can take a quite interesting walk along the banks of the Duero and Arlanza rivers. Great places to approach a delicious, varied cuisine.
On top of a hill that dominates the Arlanza river valley, you find Lerma. Dating back to pre- Roman times, the village reached its maximum splendor under the rule of the Duke of Lerma, favorite of Phillip III between 1598 and 1618.
The stately appearance of the historic quarter can be seen, for example, in the majestic Ducal Palace, which at present houses the Parador de Turismo. It was erected between 1601 and 1617 by Francisco de Mora, on top of the ruins of an ancient castle.
With sober and elegant lines, this building is flanked by four angular towers. Across from the palace we see the huge Ducal square, which used to be fully arcaded. The most remarkable building there is the collegiate church of San Pedro, which overlooks the Arlanza river.
As we continue driving west, we will go through the beautiful Spanish countryside on the most scenic route to Leon. We will be stopping over in Carrion De Los Condes to visit the famous monastery of San Zoilo. A town of great importance at the time of the old pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, its medieval origins can be seen in some of the historic buildings and in the old town. The driving time would be around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
The most characteristic building of Carrión de los Condes is the church of Santiago, famous for its splendid Panthocrator. Also significant are the frieze in the church of Santa María del Camino, embellished by an Adoración de los Magos; and the convent of Santa Clara, founded in the 13th century, with an adjoining church and museum which displays sculpture and ornaments, as well as a Piedad by Gregorio Fernández. On the outskirts of the city, near the medieval bridge, is the monastery of San Zoilo, a former pilgrims’ shelter started in the 10th century. Its Renaissance cloister is outstanding, a genuine ornamental and technical wonder which is the work of Juan de Badajoz. With a long tradition of pilgrim and traveler welcoming, today it opens its doors for you to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the cloister, unique in its kind in Europe; to enjoy its rooms, the gardens and the surroundings next to the Camino de Santiago.
León is a wonderful city, combining stunning historical architecture with an irresistible energy. Its standout attraction is the cathedral, one of the most beautiful in Spain. You’ll encounter a city with its roots firmly planted in the soil of northern Castilla, with its grand monuments, loyal Catholic heritage and a role as an important staging post along the Camino de Santiago. An
Dotted around these streets are bars and restaurants where we can sample the best of the region’s gastronomy and which have made it worthy of the nickname El Húmedo. We can continue our route on to the Palace of los Guzmanes and the Casa de los Botines. The main façade of the palace, site of the County Council, dates back to the 16th century and featuring prominently on the building are the lattice balconies and the lateral façade. The Casa de los Botines, meanwhile, is the work of the architect Antonio Gaudí, who launched the modernist style in the city. León has more examples of this artistic trend in the square of Santo Domingo.
From here, we can enter the area surrounded by the Roman walls, with the city’s two jewels located at either end: The Cathedral and Basilica of San Isidro. The “Pulcra Leonina”, one of the most striking Gothic temples in Spain, stands on the site of an old Roman baths and a Romanesque church.
We will first drive north-west to Lugo where we expect the drive to last about 2 hours.
Located on a hill on the banks of the river Miño, the city of Lugo preserves major remains of its Roman past, among them its ancient wall, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Inside the walls, the city conserves quiet pedestrian streets, wide squares and spacious gardens, where buildings such as the Cathedral, the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the City Hall stand out. But the historic quarter also houses some of the best restaurants in Galicia, where it is possible to sample the excellent fresh meats and fish which have earned Lugo’s gastronomy recognized acclaim.
The greatest example of the city’s Roman legacy is its wall. It was built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD in what was known at the time as Lucus Augusti. This stone construction has managed to survive the passage of the centuries and continues to be the city’s most distinctive architectural feature, marking the boundary between the historic quarter and the newer area of urban expansion.
A good way of seeing the city is precisely by standing atop this imposing construction, some 10 metres high, and strolling along the 2,266 metres of its perimeter. From this position it is possible to admire the historic quarter sheltering below the walls.
After taking some nice pictures, we will continue driving for about an hour and a half, west to Santiago De Compostela. You will be dropped 5Km from your hotel, where you will walk the rest of the Camino De Santiago way on foot while we deliver your luggage to the hotel.
According to legend, the apostle Saint James the Great brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 CE he was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia, Spain. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. According to legend, this tomb was rediscovered in 814 AD by the hermit Pelagius, after he witnessed strange lights in the night sky. Bishop Theodomirus of Iria recognized this as a miracle and informed king Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia (791-842). The king ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. Legend has it that the king was the first pilgrim to this shrine. This was followed by the first church in 829 AD and then in 899 AD by a pre- Romanesque church, ordered by king Alfonso III of León, which caused the gradual development of the major place of pilgrimage.
Enjoy a private guided tour of the Capital of Galicia built in the year 813. Since the 9th century, the city marks the end of the famous pilgrimage “Camino de Santiago”. The city was built around the Cathedral where one can find the remains of the apostle James (Santiago). Our guides will infuse this tour with all the legends and customs that have endured through the centuries. They will show you the local traditions, as well as introduce you to Galicia in an unorthodox way. You will truly feel the mystical spirit that has always given life to this part of Spain.
Santiago de Compostela is the jewel in Galicia’s historic, cultural and medieval crown. Santiago is this Spanish region’s most famous and illustrious city and it holds a vast medieval district with many monuments and buildings of not just Spanish, but international importance. It is quite rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest cities.
It is a small wonder that the Ribeira Sacra has not yet achieved a ‘must visit status’ both within and outside Spain. The area boasts some of the most spectacular gorge scenery in Europe. Terraces of vines perch precariously on improbably steep slopes and a multitude of medieval monasteries, churches and chapels overlook the rivers or nestle in gentler terrain nearby. Lying northeast of Ourense, the Ribera Sacra is located deep in the interior of Galicia, yet can be reached in less than 2 hours from Santiago de Compostela.
The term Ribeira Sacra, meaning ‘holy river bank’, is used to refer to the lands that border the confluence of the rivers Sil and Miño, and includes parts of the provinces of both Ourense and Lugo. From early Christian times hermits and then monks settled in the area, building monasteries which exerted an influence over the whole of Galicia. The canyons of both rivers are impressive but those of the Sil are steeper, rockier and more inaccessible than the greener, gentler banks of the Miño, which have lent themselves more to human habitation.
We will visit the 6th century Monastery of San Pedro de Rocas before heading back to the city. San Pedro de Rocas is a unique monastery, as it has been carved into rock. Rustic and extremely primitive , it is one of the earliest local hermitage settlements and is of great anthropological value
Our tour ends today with a morning flight to Madrid for your international connection. Have a safe journey home!
The Medieval Roots of the Black Madonna
Starting in Madrid, this tour will take us to Toledo where we will explore the Moorish architecture and the medieval roots of mystical practices. We will visit the monastery of the famous Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila. Lesser-known yet equally captivating Black Madonna shrines such as Guadalupe and Peña de Francia in Salamanca will be included in this tour.
Arrival into Madrid Airport transfer to hotel, optional walking tour of City Center that includes the Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor, followed by a Welcome Dinner. Your journey and the customized itinerary in Spain starts here.
It is one of the oldest towns in Europe, called the City of Three Cultures, since Christians, Muslims and Jews lived here in harmony for many years. Genuine Spanish architecture includes almost every period in Spain’s history (Arab, Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque). The great painter El Greco made Toledo his home in the 16th century.
Enjoy a wonderful full day tour with our expert guides. Every house is a castle and every alley has a tale. Walk around these beautiful passageways and hear all about the ancient mysticism that surrounds this town.
Toledo preserves an artistic and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. This great diversity of artistic styles makes the old quarter of the capital of Castile, La Mancha, a real open-air museum, which has led to it being declared a World Heritage Site.
As part of our Black Madonna pilgrimage, we have teamed up with a local expert to visit the Catedral Primada de Santa María to visit the Virgen Morena (Dark Virgin), statue of La Esclavitud de Nuestra Señora del Sagrario. The Toledo Cathedral is ranked among the greatest Gothic structures in Europe. Inside, the cathedral contains important masterpieces including a spectacular baroque high altar and two paintings by El Greco.
Sheltered by the Sierra Gredos Mountains, we find Ávila, a World Heritage City that conserves the most ancient and complete fortified complex of XI century Spain. A 2500 m wall with its 90 fortified towers surrounds the old city that contains a large number of Romanesque style churches and gothic palaces, bearing witness to the past wealth of the town as a textile center.
The famous Spanish mystic, Saint Teresa of Ávila, was born here and is well known for her key role in the Counter Reformation as a theologian of contemplative life and prayer. Her books, which include her autobiography and her seminal work The Interior Castle, are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. In Ávila, we will visit Saint Teresa’s Church and Monastery Museum, as well as other important sites, accompanied by a local guide who is an expert in Spanish renaissance, religion and mysticism.
Visits to El Prado and Our Lady of Atocha Guided Private Tour to El Prado Museum with our expert guide. Time: 11:00 Meet our expert guide in front of the Prado Museum entrance at 11:00. Enjoy a private tour of 2 hours at Spain’s most famous museum.
The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art.
The collection currently comprises around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents.
The best-known work on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Velázquez. Velázquez not only provided the Prado with his own works, but his keen eye and sensibility were also responsible for bringing much of the museum’s fine collection of Italian masters to Spain; now the largest outside of Italy.
Continuing with our pilgrimage of the Black Madonna – we will be going to visit another sacred shrine located in Madrid, the Basilica of Nuestra Señora De Atocha – located near the central station where we will have a tour of the complex as well as learn about the history of the church.
Our Lady of Atocha was in Madrid when there was only a field of reeds and a hermitage. The Moors and Muslims came and paid tribute to her as well. When Toledo was sacked in 1170, she remained there. In 1525 Charles V brought her his bride and asked her blessing upon their marriage; Don Juan of Austria, departing for the Battle of Lepanto, knelt at her feet and pledged his sword to her; after his victory he sent in thanksgiving his sword to her along with the captured Moorish banners.
Arrival in Salamanca and hotel check-in. Situated in northwestern Spain, Salamanca is the capital of the Province of Salamanca in the community of Castile and León. Its Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Walking tour of Salamanca’s highlights includes the University of Salamanca that was founded in 1134 and is the oldest university in Spain and the fourth oldest western university. We will also visit the Cathedral and the House of Shells.
Arriving at the Sierra de Francia in about an hour and a half, you will quickly distinguish the unmistakable profile of this rocky massif, 1,723 meters high. At its peak, a Dominican sanctuary, home to the Black Virgin, patron saint of Salamanca province arises.
According to Ean Begg, author and scholar, the statue was hidden in a cave sometime in the 9th century by French knights when they lost the territory to Muslim invaders. Many years later in the 15th century, the statue was rediscovered according to a prophecy given by a holy woman called Juana Hernández. She correctly predicted that a monastery would be built at the site and that many miracles would occur for those who visited the Black Madonna there. Awakening to the Divine within is a central theme, not only in this story, but also in the gospels and in Eastern religious teachings. What awakening might mean and how we might accomplish it is for each of us to find out through our own meditations and prayers. We will discover more on our private tour of the monastery and our visit with the Black Madonna.
We will continue our Black Madonna pilgrimage by traveling by train to the Guadalupe. Stopping in Madrid for lunch, we will then arrive in the evening and check in to our Parador.
The Guadalupe Parador uses the buildings of the former Hospital of St. John the Baptist, a historical 15th century building. The common areas have ancient maps, engravings and low copper braziers once used to warm the pilgrims who came here to worship at the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We will enjoy dinner and rest for tomorrow’s full day of activities.
We will commence our tour with a walk of the old village, which has two medieval quarters near the sanctuary. The monastery is an outstanding repository of four centuries of Spanish religious architecture. It symbolizes two significant events in world history that occurred in 1492: the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Catholic Kings and Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
Various legends, mingled with a bit of questionable historical information, tell the story of the Black Virgin of Guadalupe in Spain. According to one legend, the statue was carved during the 1st century by St. Luke and buried with him in Asia Minor. Later transferred with St. Luke’s relics to Constantinople in the 4th century, the statue became known as a miraculous healing icon.
Sent to Rome and then Sevilla, Spain in the 6th century, the icon continued to perform miracles until its mysterious disappearance following the Arab invasions of Sevilla in 711 AD. Five centuries later, in 1252, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant living in the Extremadura hills of central Spain, revealing to him the location of the lost icon and directing that a church be erected at the exact site where it was found. By the mid-15th century when the Basilica of Guadalupe had been completed, the Black Virgin had become one of medieval Spain’s most important pilgrimage shrines.
We have teamed up with local experts in Extremadura to give you a very flexible and knowledgeable spiritual tour of this monastery. We will have ample time to go over the history of the monastery, the legends surrounding and of course the legendary statue of the Virgin in the heart of the monastery.
Travel by train with early evening arrival in Madrid. Tonight we will enjoy a wonderful Farewell Dinner to celebrate the completion of our Black Madonna Pilgrimage!