Weekly Article #13 – From Charlemagne to the advent of the 19th century.

A late post this week, unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view!) an influx of work has delayed this post, but nothing can completely halt the flow of information from these mountains! Today we have the second half of the archaeo-historical story of Andorra, from the Franks to the opening up of Andorra to the world. This (along with the previous ‘history of Andorra’ post) will appear in the upcoming guidebook to the culture, history, and archaeology of Andorra which, fingers crossed, should be out in time for packing into Christmas stockings…

Charlemagne’s gift

During the 8th century, the Visigoths saw their kingdom crumble before the expansion of the Umayyad caliphate across much of Spain. In 732 the Umayyad governor led an expedition across the Western Pyrenees into Bordeaux. Later that year Charles Martel, the de facto leader of the Frankish Kingdom defeated the Moorish forces at the infamous Battle of Tours, and began the pushback the started what is known as the ‘reconquista’. He also founded the Carolingian Dynasty, which would produce perhaps one of the most famous kings in European history, Charlemagne. Charles Martel had several sons, and he divided his kingdom up between them. Pepin the Younger led a fierce eight-year campaign routing the Muslims from Narbonne in 759, dying in 768, and his brother Charlemagne continued his work, crossing the Pyrenees in 778 to attack the city of Zaragossa. This attempted siege failed and Charlemagne was forced to retreat, only to be ambushed by Basque forces in retaliation for his prior destruction of Pamplona’s city walls! This resulted in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, from which came the infamous romantic tale, The Song of Roland. The main passes of the Pyrenees (Roncesvalles, Somport and La Jonquera) were turned into vassal states by Charlemagne (Pamplona, Aragon and Catalonia respectively), and acted as a buffer against the Muslim forces, remaining stable for two centuries. Within this period, we find the legend of Andorra’s birth as a sovereign territory. According to national myth, Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people after their giving him assistance at in fighting the Moorish forces at Porté-Puymorens in Cerdanya. There is even a local legend that a house exists in the parish of St Julia de Loria where he stayed one night (for more information on this, see the parish’s chapter). Whatever the truth of this matter, Andorra certainly formed part of the ‘Marca Hispanica’ the aforementioned Pyrenean buffer zone that kept the Frankish kingdom safe from the Moorish armies.

The Child of Urgell & Foix

Charlemagne’s grandson, Charles the Bold, named the Count of Urgell as the lord of Andorra, and one of his descendants then gave the territory over to the Diocese of Urgell. However, in the 11th century the Bishop of Urgell became worried about the sabre-rattling behaviour of nearby lords and placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Catalan nobleman. Through an astute marriage, the Count of Foix became this Lord’s heir, and a dispute emerged as to who had control over Andorra – was it the Bishop, or the Count? Thankfully this problem was solved in 1278 through the signing of a pariatges, which gave shared sovereignty to both parties. It also gave Andorra its current political and territorial form, which remains unchanged today, and Andorra still pays an annual tribute to these co-rulers in the form of forty hams, forty loaves of bread and a measure of wine. This is also the period in which the six historic parishes of Andorra (St Julia de Loria, Andorra la Vella, Encamp, Ordino, Canillo & La Massana – Escaldes-Engordany is a recently created parish) were formalised. From this point on, Andorra has been co-ruled by French and Spanish powers (now heads of state), with the exception of the period of the French Revolution during which the French government renounced its claim to Andorra. This was however rectified by Napoleon.

During the late 8th/early 9th century, on Roc d’Enclar we see the construction of the church of San Vincente, and the evolution of the settlement from a simple self-sufficient occupation to a fortified one, complete with a religious centre, four large silos for grain storage, defensive walls and rock cut anthropomorphic burials (15 of the 52 previously mentioned). Below this rock, one finds a site that has only been discovered relatively recently (2007), and it is still subject to differing interpretations in terms of form and function.

A heavily fortified settlement, the Roureda de Margineda has offered up ceramics, bronze and iron artefacts, hearths, coins and a network of interior and exterior walls. There are broadly four phases of occupation, stretching back to the Bronze Age, which saw the construction of silos and some stone buildings with associated ceramics of the period being found in situ. During the 5th – 7th centuries we find evidence of presses which may be related to the viniculture on Roc d’Enclar above. However, it is during the 12th – 13th centuries that the site becomes far more visible, powerful and with the spatial layout that we see today. The site is structured into domestic units with several rooms, around a simple network of ‘streets’ and fortified walls, which was apparently occupied between 1190 and 1288 and was related to the power struggles for Andorra between Urgell and the Counts of Foix (aided by the Viscounts of nearby Castellbo), before the signing of the pariatges. There is a degree of uncertainty whether this site represents a fortified settlement, or a castle/fort, or even some form of extended trading/processing site linked to the settlement atop Roc d’Enclar. However what is certain is that it represents one of the best preserved Medieval archaeological sites in Andorra.

One of the hallmarks of this period in Andorra is the explosion of pre-Romanesque and Romanesque church/chapel building in each parish. The vast majority of religious buildings in Andorra can trace a major part of their construction back to the Romanesque phase, and the density of these chapels and churches built in this style throughout the country (over forty) is unmatched anywhere else. Many also have pre-Romanesque aspects. For example, the church of Santa Coloma (near Roc d’Enclar and Roureda de Margineda) is mentioned in a document written in 839, and its earliest features place it at the beginning of the 9th century, such as gabled walls that rise above the roof, simple flared windows and irregular fittings with lime mortar. Similar features can be found in the church of Sant Vincente d’Enclar. The Romanesque period (roughly 12th century) could be said to be over-represented in Andorra, with Lombard-style bell towers (both round, as at Santa Coloma, and square, as found at Sant Miquel d’Engloasters). The church of Sant Romà de les Bons in Encamp is another example, with its Lombardian apse, stone altar, and beautiful interior frescoes, unusually depicting scenes from rural life such as the droving of livestock, as well as the apocalyptic visions of St John. Canillo’s church of Sant Joan de Caselles is yet another jewel of the Andorran Romanesque, with its sturdy Lombardian square bell tower and stuccoed Christ in Majesty surrounded by murals of the crucifixion featuring Longinus and Stephanus as well as the Sun and Moon. Details on the best churches to visit in each parish will be provided in the following chapters.

The General Council

It was not until the early 15th century that Andorra saw an official form of internal government. In 1419, Andreu d’Alàs petitioned the Francesc de Tovia, Bishop of Urgell, and Count Joan I of Foix for permission to create what was to be the origins of the General Council of Andorra. Permission was granted, and this nascent body was called the ‘Consell de la Terra’ (‘Council of the Earth’). Simultaneously both co-princes granted that within the council might be elected members representing the primary houses or families of Andorra. This is popularly considered to be one of the oldest functioning parliaments in Europe.

These primary families (often the oldest) were known as fires, and were wealthy enough to pay the taxes demanded by the council, which in turn gave them rights to representation and inclusion in the political/legal processes of the council. The poorer families were known as casalers and did not enjoy such rights, and often did not own lands. One document places the ratio of fires to casalers before the 17th century as 179 against 600.

One of the most important sites in Andorra that dates from this period is the only surviving example of a Medieval fortification, the so-called ‘Torre dels Moros’ (Tour of the Moors), whose dating is debated between the 13th and 16th centuries. This former military tour is next to the Romanesque chapel of Sant Romà de les Bons in Encamp, and is built into the rock on which the chapel stands. Some suggest that it may date from the 13th century due to its proximity to the chapel, however, the pariatges of 1288 prohibited any castle building. Others believe that it dates to the 16th century and was erected in response to the incursions of the French Hugenots into Andorra during this time. The tower is square in form with four floors, and loophole windows that allowed projectiles to be fired. Its situation, like the chapel, is a commanding one, with a panoramic view of the valley below and therefore is in an ideal defensive location. The popular association with ‘the Moors’ is not an uncommon one, as many buildings with uncertain origins become linked in folklore to this force, not just in Andorra but across Spain too. As if to underscore this point, a water-tank is carved into the stone and is locally known as the ‘Baño de la Reina Mora’ (‘the Bath of the Moorish Queen’). Rainwater would collect in this basin and be distributed along stone gutters carved into the rock. The basin’s name derives from a local legend, in which under a full moon the ‘Moorish Queen’ came to bath in the basin. Of course, all the men of the local village stole up to spy on her, and such was her beauty that they became enchanted by her and stayed under her spell, hopelessly in love to the end of their days.

Throughout the next two centuries, the Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia passed between several different lords, and one of the Counts of Foix (Enric III) ascended to the French throne. However, throughout all these turbulent events, Andorra always remained stable within its arrangement of co-sovereignty and even gained some additional judicial privileges. Andorran citizens were, therefore, belonged to a neutral country, owing no military service, war contributions or obligation to aid in occupations of foreign territories, even during the war of the Spanish Succession that so affected much of Catalonia.  In 1715, the Bishop of Urgell Simeó de Guinda signed a decree that Andorra need obey no demands other than those made by the co-princes or the King of France. With the French Revolution, however, a constitutional crisis emerged.

The French Revolution & Napoleon

1789 was the first year in a decade-long program of revolutionary social and political upheaval in France. Four years later in 1793, the French revolutionary government executed the King of France (also a figurehead for Andorra) Louis XVI, and officially rejected the traditional Andorran tribute, declaring it a relic of feudalism and against the principles of revolutionary France. However, more importantly for Andorrans, France also renounced its role in the co-rulership of the country, leaving Andorra undersold control of Spain, an unpopular situation. In 1794, during the war with Spain, French forces entered Andorra and advanced to Soldeu in Canillo with intention of marching to and occupying La Seu d’Urgell. Desperate, several representatives of Andorra sped to Puigcerdà near Girona, where General Chabret of the French Revolutionary forces had his headquarters, and successfully entreated him to abandon this plan.

After the initial rise of Napolean I and during the Napoleonic Wars Andorra remained a neutral state, however, Andorrans petitioned the ruler to restore the pre-Revolutionary arrangement of ‘co-sovereignty’ which came back into effect in 1806. In an ironic twist, given the region’s previous role, Andorra became part of the Puigcerdà district between 1812 and 1813 after the French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it into four departments. However, this domination of Catalonia by the French was brief, due to General Wellington signing an armistice that prompted the French forces to leave Barcelona.

The Discovery of Andorra

This renewal of Andorra’s traditional co-sovereignty also coincided with a more general interest in the country from its neighbours. Andorra began to receive the first visits from inquisitive walkers and travellers, eager to explore this little-known Pyrenean refuge and write about it, and even a comic opera was written about the country by the (then) famous Fromental Halévy in 1848. Now forgotten, ‘Le Val d’Andorre’ was a huge hit and actually saved the Opéra-Comique in Paris from the ruin it was facing, playing 165 times. It was also performed in Leipzig (1849), London (1850) and Madrid (1852), however, it would not be performed in Andorra, and then only in part, until 2001. However, inspiration was not the only reason for visiting the country during this period. In Spain a violent conflict was raging, the Carlist Wars, and both liberal and Carlist refugees sought shelter in Andorra’s valleys. It was at this time that the Catalan Carlist Josep Ignasi Dalmau i Baquer, nephew of the Bishop of Urgell, wrote the first widely circulated book about the history of Andorra.

Between 1842 and 1876 the pre-industrial economy of Andorra received a boost in the form of the Rossell Forge (now a museum and industrial heritage centre), whose iron ingots became much in demand within Catalonia and created an alternative source of local income outside of the typical agriculture/stock breeding and, of course, smuggling. Further reforms came in the guise of a rich Andorran landowner, Guillem de Plandolit i d’Areny, who headed the ‘Nova Reforma’ movement. This movement aimed at reforming the General Council to give greater participation to the peoples of Andorra, increasing the number of councillors to 24 and each one to be elected by the ‘sindics’ (government officers). This was ratified by the Bishop of Urgell in 1866 and Napoleon III in 1869. At this point the main income in Andorra was derived from agriculture, livestock and some surreptitious smuggling – an industry that is the source of wry pride in locals even today! In Sispony one can find the Casa Rull and in Ordino the Casa d’Areny-Plandolit (where the aforementioned Guillem lived). Both are excellent examples of landowner class and aristocratic houses respectively and are described in detail in their parish chapters in this book. By the end of the century, the first telephone and telegraph lines had been installed in the country, and this truly opened up Andorra to the precursors of the tourism it enjoys today, which would move it away from a reliance on agriculture and livestock.

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