The Hermitage of the Holy Cross in Olorda, a settlement located in the Collserola Mountains which ring the city of Barcelona, is of very ancient and somewhat mysterious origin. Much of the present building is believed to date from between 800-1000 A.D. Subsequent additions to the building in later centuries, as well as the destruction of the Civil War, have had an impact on the appearance of the present structure.
The first documentary evidence for the existence of a chapel on this site is dated 1032 A.D., although the settlement around it is known from an even earlier document. In the year 986 A.D. King Lothar (941-986 A.D.) of the Franks deeded this land to the Monastery of Sant Cugat, just over the other side of the mountain from the former village of Olorda. This fact, in combination with the architectural style of the building leads historians to believe that the hermitage was probably already of considerable age at the time the Frankish King willed the land to the Benedictines.
The present bell tower was added around 1300, and enlarged in the 17th century when a Renaissance front portal was added to the facade. It remained a popular pilgrimage site, but as to when the last hermit was in residence here, no one is quite certain. In the 19th century with the development of the train and tram lines, the area began to grow in population, and the chapel came under the administration of larger parishes nearby, in turn.
By 1915 the chapel came under the authority of the parish of Saint Vincent, the main church in the former village of Sarrià, now one of the more exclusive northern residential districts of Barcelona and under which it remains today. Given its somewhat remote location, it became a popular excursion and picnic post, particularly on religious feast days, when the youth from the local parishes would come here to celebrate mass and participate in games and other activities. Because this was never a highly populated area, following a significant amount of destruction during the Civil War in 1936, the chapel languished for a considerable period of time.
Recently, I am pleased to say, interest in this ancient chapel has seen an increase, and Saint Vincent and two of the other northern parishes have announced that beginning on September 14, 2010, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, appropriately enough, a mass will once again be held in the ancient chapel after many years of remaining closed. If interest is shown, the other parishes will try to see if they can provide sufficient staff to continue to celebrate the mass at the Hermitage on a regular basis.