10 curiosities of the andorran romanesque
You may be wondering... What does the Romanesque in Andorra have that is different from what you already know? Its typical stone walls, its rounded arches, its austere porticos, its typical bell-towers... Well no! We will tell you all the anecdotes, histories, and odd tales that make it a walk through the Romanesque of Andorra so fascinating and charming. You may be struck by sudden and uncontrollable curiosity….
What led the Monsignor of Nagol to take on a debt of a 5 Barcelonan solidi (gold coins) in the year 1339? And to whom did he owe them? For the moment these questions will remain unanswered, but it is certain that the walls of Sant Serni de Nagol have many stories left to reveal.
Did you know that a Holy Christ statue was found buried in the earth below the nave in Sant Joan de Caselles? It was discovered in the 1960s and after it was recovered, it was seen that it had originally been placed on the lateral wall of the nave in relation to some 12th century murals, which can be seen today, providing a unique display of Romanesque that combines painting and sculpture.
Everybody has heard of the perishable murals of Santa Coloma, which were transported around half of Europe during one of the most tumultuous periods of humanity, but did you know that there are still original 12th century paintings preserved within the church that were not sold with the rest of the group because they were hidden behind the altarpiece?
The bell tower of Sant Miquel stands majestically over the valley containing Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany, but did you know that in 1898 the region's shepherds kept their flocks of sheep within the church?
Did you know, that for many centuries, the churches of Andorra were the only public buildings in society, and as such they were not only used for worship, but also for anything else that involved the city dwellers, pastures, taxes, etc.? The pews that could be turned around attest to this fact.
Outside this small church in the town of Pal you can see an extremely old wrought iron grate. According to the story passed down by word of mouth, long ago it was used to cover recently buried dead in order to stop animals from digging into the soft earth.
In 1785, Bishop Garcia de Montenegro ordered that part of the murals that decorated the walls of Sant Romà de les Bons be censored: “that several paintings that are to be found on the walls be erased as they are indecent”.
The Romanesque representation of the patron saint of Andorra was lost in a fire that consumed the church one September evening in 1972. In its place, you can now find a faithful replica made using 3D technology.
Churches are organic buildings that evolve over the passage of years in the same way that society does. Andorra la Vella's Sant Esteve is a living example of this process. Its semicircular apse tells the story of its Romanesque origins, but the aspect it bears today owes much to construction work done as part of the reforms of Puig i Cadafalch in 1940.
In Andorra, building forms changed very little between the Romanesque period and the early 20th century. So, it’s not unusual to find newer churches such as the Church of Santa Creu de Canillo which are mistaken for Romanesque churches due to their appearance. The most common myth has to do with the Romanesque bridges of Andorra. These bridges, such as the iconic Pont de la Margineda bridge, date back to the Late Middle Ages at best.