La Mare de Déu de Montserrat is patron saint of Catalonia and is popularly known as La Moreneta because of the black colour of her figure, which is housed at the Monastery of Montserrat.
La Moreneta is a symbol of Catalonia and the Monastery is a pilgrimage destination throughout the year, particularly on her saints' day, which is on April 27th.
According to legend, the first image of La Mare de Déu de Montserrat was found by a group of young shepherds in a cave after seeing a light on the mountain in the year 808.
When the bishop heard of this, he tried to take the image to the town of Manresa but it suddenly became to heavy to be carried and consequently, the bishop ordered the building of the Hermitage of Santa Maria, which is the origin of the current monastery.
The image that is worshipped today is a 12th century 95-centimetre-high Romanesque figure made of poplar and beech wood and is of Mary with baby Jesus on her knee.
Mary holds a golden orb representing the universe and the Baby Jesus has his left hand held up in a sign of blessing and holds a smaller orb in his right hand, which apparently symbolises fecundity.
Apart from Mary's face and hands, which are black, the figures are gold and apparently, the reason for the blackness is the smoke from the candles that have lit the room she's in for centuries and this why her nickname is La Moreneta, which means Little Black Woman.
On September 11th, Pope Leo XIII declared La Mare de Déu de Montserrat patron saint of Catalonia and assigned April 27th as her saints' day.
Since the Throning of La Mare de Déu de Montserrat in 1947, on April 26th, the eve of her saints' day, a nocturnal mass is held at the monastery.
La Moreneta is permanent display in the monastery and has only left the building on a few occasions during the early years of the 19th century, when the monastery was under military threat, and during the Spanish Civil War the figure was replaced with a copy.
April 27th is the Saints Day of La Mare de Déu de Montserrat, and a part from the religious celebrations at the monastery and other churches, there are a number of Festa Majors throughout Catalonia.
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