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A Concise History Of Andorra

The history of Andorra is not very well-documented. In fact, it is rather sparse. No major historical works mention Andorra (with one exception), and all of the following is the result of painstaking research of translated sources.

The valleys of Andorra have been inhabited for thousands of years. Archaeologists have discovered artifacts (pottery, primitive jewelry, etc.) dating back to the Neolithic period (between five thousand and eight thousand years ago). Bronze Age (about four thousand years ago) artifacts have been found near the villages of Cedre and La Serra d'Enclar. However, there is very little solid documentation. Historians speculate that the original inhabitants of the valleys of Andorra were related to the Basque people of northern Spain, and that the name Andorra is of Basque derivation. Other pre-roman inhabitants included Celt tribal migrations, Iberians from the south, and a small tribe called the Andosinos, mentioned by Polybius when he was describing the Punic Wars.

Yes, it is likely that somewhere in Andorra, someone would be justified in putting up a "Hannibal slept here" sign.
Andorra was part of the Roman Empire in it's heyday (the Roman Empire, not Andorra), although not mentioned in any of the secondary sources which I consulted. When Rome fell, Andorra became a gateway for the northern barbarian tribes to pass from the Roman provinces of Gaul into the provinces of Iberia. Several of the tribes left traces of their passing through (discarded McDonalds wrappers, etc.), including the Alans, the Visigoths, and the Vandals.

By the time the Moors appeared in Andorra (having come north through Spain via North Africa), the populace of Andorra was predominantly Chrisitan, with a few pagan hold-outs in the more remote parts. The six parishes of Andorra are first mentioned in records of the Church in the Acts Of Consecration of the Cathedral of Seu d'Urgell in 839. The inhabitants of Andorra were very hostile to the Moors, and welcomed the liberation of their country by Charlemagne. Local legend has that Charlemagne quartered in the village of El Puy d'Olivesa during his campaign against the Moors.

The most important document in the country of Andorra is the Carta de Fundacio d'Andorra, a charter for the country written by Charlemagne, and given to his son, Louis the Pious, establishing Andorra's independence. it is kept under lock and key by the Andorran government, and they rarely let it see the light of day. However, there are many who suspect that the document is a forgery, made by the Andorrans themselves as fraudulent documentation to support their claims to independence against claimants from both Spain and France.
After the death of Charlemagne, the Carolingian Empire fell into divisive territorial quarrels, and Andorra fell into the rule of the Count Of Urgell, one of the powerful families of the Spanish nobility. In 1133 the Count of Urgell ceded the lands to the Bishop of Urgell.

In 1159 Andorra became the subject of a prolonged struggle between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgell. Although an agreement was signed that year which recognized the Bishop's authority while ceding certain rights to the Count of Foix, the dispute lasted through many bloody, bitter battles until 1278 when Roger Bernard (Count of Foix) and Father d'Urtx (Bishop of Urgell) signed a peace treaty forced upon them by the King of Aragon. This treaty,and another signed eleven years later, established that Andorra would become independant, but pay an annual tribute called questia. To whom the tribute went alternated every year; first to the Count of Foix, then to the Bishop of Urgell, then the Count of Foix, etc. This agreement, called the Pareage is still the basis of Andorra's constitution and political independance. It is still paid to the Bishop of Urgell, and the President of France (as the sucessor to the Counts of Foix). The twin heads of state are referred to as "co-princes", and hence the country is referred to as the Principality of Andorra".

In 1419 the people of Andorra petitioned the co-rulers for permission to establish a local parliament, which would consider local issues. This was granted, and the Council Of The Land was established. The members of the Council were elected by the "heads of household", which in practice meant males over the age of 25. There were four representatives from each of the six parishes, resulting in a membership of twenty-four.

The French Revolution
Over the years the title of "co-prince" of Andorra changed hands on the French side of the border. Henry II of Foix became Henry IV of France, and the title passed into the royal dominion, and Louis XIII (the son of Henry IV) confirmed Andorra's rights.

However, in 1793 the French monarchy was overthrown, and for the next fifteen years the Andorrans were without the protection of the French government. While this generally wouldn't really bother most people, the Andorrans were worried that their Spanish overlord would take this opportunity to revoke their independence, and make them a subordinate territory. When Napoleon became Emperor of France, he issued on March 26, 1806 an Imperial Decree re-establishing the the overlordship of the French government, and confirming their rights of independence. When France became a reupblic in 1870 the role of overlord became part of the duties and powers of the President of the Repyblic.

King Boris I of Andorra
In 1933 several disaffected Andorrans, some in high positions in the government, sponsored the attempt of Boris de Skossyreff (himself a Russian) to proclaim himself King Boris I of Andorra. Several days later "King Boris" was removed by several guardsmen of the Bishop of Urgell, but the resultant turmoil culminated in the nation's judicial authority, the Tribunal de Corts, firing the members of the Council Of The Land.

In order to prevent the total dissolution of law and order, the French government sent squads of gendarmes to keep domestic order. Within a short time, the Andorrans held elections, re-established the Council Of The Land, with all men over the age of twenty-four being allowed to vote, and all men over thirty allowed to hold office. In 1970 women were granted the right to vote and hold office, and in 1971 the age requirements were lowered to twenty-one for the right to vote.

The Modern Era
In 1978 the six parishes of Andorra were expanded to seven, with the establishment of the parish of Escaldes-Engordany. In 1981 an organization called the Government Of Andorra was created. It is the executive branch of government, and consists of the Head Of Government (elected by the Council Of The Land), and four to six Councillors who act as Ministers, each looking after a particular area such as defense, education, finance, foreign affairs, etc.


credit: David Medinnus