Santuari de la Mare de Déu

The Catalan Pyrenees

The region's high point (literally and figuratively) is Núria's strangely austere 1911 sanctuary. A gold-and-pastel-painted passageway leads to its upper level, housing the Mare de Déu de Núria above the altar. Mary, looking regal in star-spangled robes, clasps a grown-up Jesus. The icon is in 12th-century Romanesque style, despite believers insisting that Sant Gil sculpted it in CE 700. The sanctuary's spartan feel initially underwhelms; nonetheless, the magnificent views, icon and accompanying folklore make this a worthy trip.

On the left as you enter through the main door is a chapel containing a bell, a cross and a cooking pot (dating to the 15th century). To have your prayer answered, put your head in the pot and ring the bell while you pray. To the right, peek into a chapel with a stained-glass window depicting Sant Bernat, carrying a pair of skis and accompanied by a mountain dog (he’s the patron saint of skiers and hikers).

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