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All well and good but even a casual glance at the map reveals that the ancient courtyard at the heart of this rarified enclave is not called St Peter's, St Paul's, or even St. Elsewhere in the available texts (and I hasten to add the Benedictine Monastery adjacent to the basilica houses as one of the finest esoteric libraries east of the Miskatonic) I found reference to an ancient legend that a temple dedicated to Venus had been built on the mountaintop in pagan times, which was later destroyed by the miraculous intervention of the Archangel Michael.The warrior angel is invariably associated with the aggressive Christianization of pagan sites, Glastonbury and Avebury among them, marching along the 'old, straight way', the so-called 'ley lines' that criss-cross Europe like spines or nails in the dragon's back.

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The first place they made landfall was named in Her honour, the remote, volcanic island of Montserrat and the first churches in Chile, Mexico and Peru were dedicated to Her, leading to Her popular appellation - 'the Virgin of the New World'. Worse still the official texts on the subject were disturbingly unclear, claiming the icon's features had been 'blackened by candle smoke' over countless years, which is plainly not the case.

The monastery atop the mountain's highest outcrop that first caught my attention from the freeway was strictly off limits to pilgrims and casual day trippers, apparently a retreat for the clergy's upper eschelon where many of them chose to spend their final days, papal palliative care in a relaxed healthy, albeit rugged mountainous environment. A name that conjures black widows rather than virgins...

According to the guidebook, the Virgin of Montserrat was found in 888 AD, not long after the liberation of Barcelona from the Moors.

It was apparently discovered by shepherds in a grotto where it had been hidden by what the text described as a 'fleeing Gothic bishop', which frankly raises more questions than it answers, if you'll forgive the pun.

I not only missed the turn off to Sitges, I missed Barcelona and never did get to see the Gaudi cathedral, not until many years later.