The 16th century wayside cross, exhibit at 'Nigra Sum'
13 / 05 / 2015

The Nigra Sum space of the Museum, a permanent exhibition to show the historical evolution of the iconography of the Virgin of Montserrat, has incorporated this week a new piece: the main 16th century wayside cross of Montserrat.
This sculpture was originally located in front of the portal of the main entrance to the sanctuary and indicated the end of the line. Most likely, during the French War the sculpture was demolished and fragmented, so that some remains were preserved in the old Lapidary Museum, specifically the broken knot and various fragments of the main arms of the cross.
The cross was revalued in the early 50s when the abbot Aureli M. Escarré organized the entrance porch of the atrium of the basilica. It was assembled beside the porter’s lodge of the monastery, in a place protected from rain and erosion.
Later it was considered that the most appropriate location was the meeting point of the axis of the basilica and the access road from where the pilgrims and visitors get to Montserrat, but the weather and the onslaught of the winds damaged the whole piece. The in-depth restoration, by Pilar Diaz and Soledad Dueñas, was conducted in 2001. The 16th century cross was dismantled and internally reinforced with a steel core and restored as much as possible to its original shape, but the piece didn’t return to the square anymore –where a copy was installed– and it was preserved inside the monastery until now that is again on public display at the Museum of Montserrat.
This piece has a special interest in the Nigra Sum section because it reinforces an old representation of the Virgin that later was uncommon. We see the figure of the Virgin standing, holding in his left arm Jesus Child who holds a saw that Mary also holds on her right hand. Thus, the saw, which is emblematic of Montserrat, is in the heart of the composition and defines the dedication of the image.
Next to the stone cross we also find a 16th century painting (please, watch the picture detail) where the Virgin and Jesus Child appear in the clouds. Mary, who is standing, holds the Child, who is busy sawing the mountain.
You can learn more about the wayside crosses of Montserrat in this article in the Museum’s blog (in Catalan).