History

 

Prehistory

La Balma de la Margineda found by archaeologists at Sant Julia de Loria was the first temporal settlement in 9,500 BC as a passing place between the two sides of the Pyrenees. The seasonal camp was perfectly located for hunting and fishing by the groups of hunter-gatherers from Ariege and Segre.

 

During the Neolithic Age the group of humans moved to the Valley of Madriu (nowadays Natural Parc located in Escaldes-Engordany declared UNESCO World Heritage Site) as a permanent camp in 6640 BC. The population of the valley grew cereals, raised domestic livestock and developed a commercial trade with people from the Segre and Occitania.

 

Other archaeological deposits include the Tombs of Segudet (Ordino) and Feixa del Moro (Sant Julia de Loria) both dated in 490–4300 BC as an example of the Urn culture in Andorra. The model of small settlements begins to evolve as a complex urbanism during the Bronze Age. Metallurgical items of iron, ancient coins, and reliquaries can be found in the ancient sanctuaries scattered around the country.

 

The sanctuary of Roc de les Bruixes (Stone of the Witches) is maybe the most important archeological complex of this Age in Andorra, located in the parish of Canillo, about the rituals of funerals, ancient scripture and engraved stone murals.

 

The Iberian and Roman Andorra

The inhabitants of the valleys were traditionally associated with the Iberians and historically located in Andorra as the Iberian tribe Andosins or Andosini (Ἀνδοσίνους) during the 7th and 2nd centuries BC. Influenced by Aquitanias, Basque and Iberian languages the locals developed some current toponyms. Early writings and documents relating this group of people go back to the second century BC by the Greek writer Polybius in his Histories during the Punic Wars.

 

Some of the most significant remains of this era are the Castle of the Roc d’Enclar (part of the early Marca Hispanica), l’Anxiu in Les Escaldes and Roc de L’Oral in Encamp. The presence of Roman influence is recorded from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The places found with more Roman presence are in Camp Vermell (Red Field) in Sant Julia de Loria and in some places in Encamp as well as in the Roc d’Enclar. People continued trading, mainly with wine and cereals, with the Roman cities of Urgellet (nowadays La Seu d’Urgell) and all across Segre through the Via Romana Strata Ceretana (also known as Strata Confluetana).

 

The Visigoths and Carolingians: the legend of Charlemagne

After the fall of the Roman Empire Andorra came under the influence of the Visigoths, not remotely from the Kingdom of Toledo, but locally from the Diocese of Urgell. The Visigoths remained in the valleys for 200 years, during which time Christianity spread. When the Muslim Empire and its conquest of the Iberian Peninsula replaced the ruling Visigoths, Andorra was sheltered from these invaders by the Franks.

 

Tradition holds that Charles the Great (Charlemagne) granted a charter to the Andorran people for contingent of five thousand soldiers under the command of Marc Almugaver, in return for fighting against the Moors near Porté-Puymorens (Cerdanya).

Andorra remained part of the Marca Hispanica of the Frankish Empire being part of the territory the Count of Urgell and eventually by the bishop of the Diocese of Urgell. Also, tradition holds that it was guaranteed by the son of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, writing the Carta de Poblament or a local municipal charter circa 805.

 

In 988, Borrell II, Count of Urgell, gave the Andorran valleys to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya. Since then the Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d’Urgell, has been Co-prince of Andorra.

 

The first document that mentions Andorra as a territory is the Acta de Consagració i Dotació de la Catedral de la Seu d’Urgell (Deed of Consecration and Endowment of the Cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell). The old document dated from 839 depicts the six old parishes of the Andorran valleys and therefore the administrative division of the country.

 

Medieval Age: The Paréages and the founding of the Co-Principality

Before 1095, Andorra did not have any type of military protection and the Bishop of Urgell, who knew that the Count of Urgell wanted to reclaim the Andorran valleys, asked the Lord of Caboet for help and protection. In 1095 the Lord of Caboet and the Bishop of Urgell signed under oath a declaration of their co-sovereignty over Andorra. Arnalda, daughter of Arnau of Caboet, married the Viscount of Castellbò and both became Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya. Years later their daughter, Ermessenda, married Roger Bernat II, the French Count of Foix. They became Roger Bernat II and Ermessenda I, Counts of Foix, Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya, and co-sovereigns of Andorra (shared with the Bishop of Urgell).

 

In the 13th century, a military dispute arose between the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix as aftermath of the Cathar Crusade. The conflict was resolved in 1278 with the mediation of the king of Aragon, Pere II between the Bishop and the Count, by the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra’s sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title would ultimately transfer to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell, in Catalonia. This gave the principality its territory and political form.

 

A second paréage was signed in 1288 after a dispute when the Count of Foix ordered the construction of a castle in Roc d’Enclar. The document was ratified by the noble notary Jaume Orig of Puigcerdà and the construction of military structures in the country was prohibited.

 

In 1364 the political organization of the country named the figure of the syndic (now spokesman and president of the parliament) as representative of the Andorrans to their co-princes making possible the creation of local departments (comuns, quarts and veïnats). After being ratified by the Bishop Francesc Tovia and the Count Jean I, the Consell de la Terra or Consell General de les Valls (General Council of the Valleys) was founded in 1419, the second oldest parliament in Europe. The syndic Andreu d’Alàs and the General Council organized the creation of the Justice Courts (La Cort de Justicia) in 1433 with the Co-Princes and the collection of taxes like foc i lloc (literally fire and site, a national tax active since then).

 

Although we can find remains of ecclesiastical works dating before the 9th century (Sant Vicenç d’Enclar or Església de Santa Coloma), Andorra developed exquisite Romanesque Art during the 9th through 14th centuries, as much in the construction of churches, bridges, religious murals and statues of the Virgin and Child (being the most important the Our Lady of Meritxell). Nowadays, the Romanesque buildings that form part of Andorra’s cultural heritage stand out in a remarkable way, with an emphasis on Església de Sant Esteve, Sant Joan de Caselles, Església de Sant Miquel d’Engolasters, Sant Martí de la Cortinada and the medieval bridges of Margineda and Escalls among many others.

 

While the Catalan Pyrenees were embryonic of the Catalan language at the end of the 11th century Andorra was influenced by the appearance of that language where it was adopted by proximity and influence even decades before it was expanded by the rest of the Kingdom of Aragon.

 

The local population based its economy during the Middle Ages in the livestock and agriculture, as well as in furs and weavers. Later, at the end of the 11th century, the first foundries of iron began to appear in Northern Parishes like Ordino, much appreciated by the master artisans who developed the art of the forges, an important economic activity in the country from the 15th century.

16th to 18th centuries

In 1601 the Tribunal de Corts (High Court of Justice) was created as a result of Huguenot rebellions from France, Inquisition courts coming from Spain and indigenous witchcraft experienced in the country due to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. With the passage of time, the co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607, that established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as Co-Princes of Andorra. During 1617 communal councils form the sometent (popular militia or army) to deal with the rise of bandolerisme (brigandage) and the Consell de la Terra was defined and structured in terms of its composition, organization, and competencies current today.

 

Andorra continues with the same economic system that it had during the 12th-14th centuries with a large production of metallurgy (fargues, a system similar to Farga catalana) and with the introduction of tobacco circa 1692 and import trade. The fair of Andorra la Vella was ratified by the co-princes in 1371 and 1448 is the most important annual national festival commercially ever since.

The country had a unique and experienced guild of weavers, Confraria de Paraires i Teixidors, located in Escaldes-Engordany founded in 1604 taking advantage of the thermal waters of the area. By the time the country constitutes the social system of prohoms (wealthy society) and casalers (rest of the population with smaller economic acquisition), deriving to the tradition of pubilla and hereu.

 

Three centuries after its foundation the Consell de la Terra locates its headquarters and the Tribunal de Corts in Casa de la Vall in 1702. The manor house built in 1580 served as a noble fortress of the Busquets family. Inside the parliament was placed the Closet of the six keys (Armari de les sis claus) representative of each Andorran parish and where the Andorran constitution and other documents and laws were kept later on.

 

In both Guerra dels Segadors and Guerra de Sucesión Española conflicts, the Andorran people (although with the statement neutral country) supported the Catalans who saw their rights reduced in 1716. The reaction was the promotion of Catalan writings in Andorra, with cultural works such as the Book of Privileges (Llibre de Privilegis de 1674), Manual Digest (1748) by Antoni Fiter i Rossell or the Polità andorrà (1763) by Antoni Puig.

 

19th century: The New Reform and the Andorran Question

After the French Revolution, in 1809, Napoleon I reestablished the Co-Principate and deleted the French medieval tithe. However, in 1812–13, the First French Empire annexed Catalonia during the Peninsular War (Guerra del francés). They divided it into four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre). In 1814 a royal decree reestablished the independence and economy of Andorra.

 

During this period, Andorra’s late medieval institutions and rural culture remained largely unchanged. In 1866 the syndic Guillem d’Areny-Plandolit led the reformist group in a Council General of 24 members, elected by suffrage limited to heads of families, replaced the aristocratic oligarchy that previously ruled the state. The New Reform (Nova Reforma or Pla de Reforma) began after being ratified by both Co-Princes and established the basis of the constitution and symbols (such as the tricolor flag) of Andorra. A new service economy arose as a demand of the inhabitants of the valleys and began to build infrastructures such as hotels, spa resorts, roads and telegraph lines.

The authorities of the Co-Princes (veguer) banned casinos and betting houses throughout the country by establishing an economic conflict with the demand of the Andorran people. The conflict led to the so-called Revolution of 1881 or Troubles of Andorra, when revolutionaries assaulted the house of the syndic during 8 December 1880 and established the Provisional Revolutionary Council led by Joan Pla i Calvo and Pere Baró i Mas, who granted the construction of casinos and spas to foreign companies. During 7 and 9 June 1881, the loyalists of Canillo and Encamp reconquered the parishes of Ordino and Massana by establishing contact with the revolutionary forces in Escaldes-Engordany. After a day of combat finally, the Treaty of the Bridge of Escalls was signed the 10 of June. The Council was replaced, and new elections were held. But the economic situation worsened, as society was divided over the Qüestió d’Andorra (the Andorran Question in relation to the Eastern Question). The struggles continued between pro-bishops, pro-French and nationalists who derived the troubles of Canillo in 1882 and 1885.

Andorra participated in the cultural movement of the Catalan Renaixença. Between 1882 and 1887 the first academic schools were formed where trilingualism coexists with the knowledge of the official language, Catalan. Some romantic authors from both France and Spain reported the awakening of the national consciousness of the country. Jacint Verdaguer lived in Ordino during the 1880s where he wrote and share works related to the Renaixença with Joaquim de Riba, writer and photographer. Fromental Halévy, for his part, had already premiered in 1848 the opera Le Val d’Andorre of great success in Europe, where the national consciousness of the valleys during the Peninsular War was exposed in the romantic work.

 

20th century: Modernization of the country and Constitutional Andorra

Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I but did not take part directly in the fighting. It is known that some Andorrans volunteered to take part in the conflict as part of the French Legions. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.

 

In 1933, France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections due the Revolution of 1933 and the FHASA strikes (Vagues de FHASA); the revolt led by Joves Andorrans (a labour union group related to the Spanish CNT and FAI) called for political reforms, the universal suffrage vote of all Andorrans and acted in defense of the rights of local and foreign workers during the construction of FHASA’s hydroelectric power station in Encamp. The 5th April 1933 Joves Andorrans took the Andorran Parliament under their custody in rebellion to their requests. These actions were preceded by the arrival of Colonel René-Jules Baulard with 50 gendarmes and the mobilization of 200 local militias or sometent led by the Síndic Francesc Cairat.

 

On 12 July 1934, adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself “Boris I, King of Andorra”, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by the Spanish authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain. From 1936 until 1940, a French military detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the principality against disruption from the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war. During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain.

 

Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France, Spain, and Portugal. In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in transport and communications have removed the country from its isolation. Since 1976 the country sees the need to reform Andorran institutions due to the anachronisms in the field of sovereignty, human rights and the balance of powers as well as the need to adopt legislation to modern demands. In 1982 the first separation of powers took place when instituting the Govern d’Andorra, under the name of Executive Board (Consell Executiu), chaired by the first prime minister Òscar Ribas Reig with the approval of the Co-Princes. In 1989 the Principality signed an agreement with the European Economic Community to regularize trade relations.

 

Its political system was modernized in 1993 after the Andorran constitutional referendum, when the constitution was drafted by the Co-Princes and the General Council and approved on 14 March by 74.2% of voters, with a 76% turnout. The first elections under the new constitution were held later in the year. The same year Andorra became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

 

 


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