It is a spectacular and unique natural landscape at the Costa Dorada where nature, landscape, faith, history and legends flow together in balance. It is an excellent choice to do a family excursion or as starting point for hiking trails or mountain bike tracks, that permit us to discover Mont-roig from another perspective. Plus it is a present place in the works of several artists, among others the universal Catalan Joan Miró, who was connected to Mont-roig.
The singularity of the natural space Mare de Déu de la Roca is a peculiar enclave in the Camp de Tarragona, due to the fanciful reliefs and the characteristic red color of the rocks.
One of the most popular itineraries for the whole family begins at the top of the village, at the Hermitage’s Old Path, following it for 25-30 minutes you will arrive to the hermitage. Halfway we will find the legendary Angels’ Stone (Pedra dels Àngels) – there is an old popular saying: “if you want to hear the angels singing, a good Mont-roiger will make them sing”.
Mountain full of legends
There are several legends linked to the hermitage Mare de Déu de la Roca. The most popular tells how the statue of the virgin was found. According to the legend, a man, who usually went with his flock to pasture at the foot of La Roca Mountain, one day found a carved wooden statue: it was the image of the Virgin of la Roca. At the location where it was found, they built a chapel, known as the Peiró-esguerrat “broken-Peiró”. At the present the remains of the Peiró-esguerrat still can be seen on the New Path of the Hermitage and there we can find a simple manger. According to the legend, the virgin disappeared from the Peiró-esguerrat and she went to the location where she is today, the place where she was found. This was considered a miracle and so the present hermitage was built on this spot.
If we visit the hermitage’s shrine, we can see a fresco painting with this legendary shepherd.
This is not the only legend. On the last stretch of the Old Path, near the Miró point arriving to the hermitage, there is a striking rise. On the red rock you see some longish and whitish spots. According to the legend, those are the marks that the horse hoof of a Moorish king left on the rock before tumbling off the cliff. Altough nowadays it is no more visible, the king’s swort also left a mark on the rock as he fell down, just at the place where we exit the area of the hermitage, today we can find there stairs. This legendary Moorish king calls up a time when the territory was under Muslim occupation, before the Reconquest.
Paths and routes
La Roca Mountain is one of the places where different hiking paths or mountain bike routes come together, among them the GR-192. Mont-roig Miami Turisme proposes the route “Mare de Déu de la Roca, sailors’ lighthouse” (see map), a part of this trail runs through this GR long-distance foot path.
If you wish to start at Mont-roig village, the Joan Miró square is a good meeting point to begin the tracks, which lead to La Roca Mountain. Cars can be parked at the spacious car park right behind the Old Church. A nearer option is the children’s playground at the northern part of the village. At both points there are drinking water sources and nearby parking areas. At the children’s playground starts the route “Mare de Déu de la Roca, sailor’s lighthouse” which runs along the Old Path, where it passes narrowly the Angels’ Stone. A section of this track will show you the Carlins’ Path, which goes from the foot of the hermitage to Vilanova d’Escornalbou. But the track turns left up to the Areny Mountain pass (361 m.), a natural space that must be seen and where the whole beauty of the mountain erosion will captivate the visitor while enjoying the views of the landscape of this region.
It is a curious fact that, only a few metres away from the village, at the wayside going up to the Peiró Hermitage, there is a group of ashlar blocks that were not used for the construction of Mont-roig’s New Church.