1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Andorra

ANDORRA, or Andorre, a small, neutral, autonomous, and semi-independent state, on the Franco-Spanish frontier, and chiefly on the peninsular side of the eastern Pyrenees. Pop. (1900) about 5500; area about 175 sq. m. Andorra is surrounded by mountains, and comprises one main valley, watered by the Gran Balira, Valira or Balire, a tributary of the Segre, which itself flows into the Ebro; with several smaller valleys, the most important being that of the Balira del Orien, which joins the Gran Balira on the left. The territory was once densely wooded, and is said to derive its name from the Moorish Aldarra, “the place thick with trees”; but almost all the forests have been destroyed for fuel. The climate is generally cold, with very severe winters. The land is chiefly devoted to pasture for the numerous flocks and herds; but on the more sheltered southern slopes it is carefully cultivated, and produces grain, potatoes, fruit and tobacco. Game and trout are plentiful; milk, butter, hams, hides and wool are exported, principally to France. The local industries are of the most primitive kind, merely domestic, as in the middle ages. Lack of capital, of coal, and of good means of communication prevents the inhabitants from making use of the iron and lead in their mountains. During the coldest winter months their communications are much easier with Spain than through the snow-clad passes leading into Ariège. The only roads are bridle-paths, and one municipal road by the Balira valley, connecting Andorra with the high road to Seo de Urgel and Manresa; but in 1904 France and Spain agreed to build a railway from Ax to Ripoll, which would greatly facilitate traffic.

The Andorrans are a robust and well-proportioned race, of an independent spirit, simple and severe in their manners. They are all Roman Catholics. Apart from the wealthier landowners, who speak French fluently, and send their children to be educated in France, they use the Catalan dialect of Spanish. Andorra comprises the six parishes or communes of Andorra Vicilla, Canillo, Encamp, La Massana, Ordino and San Julian de Loria, which are subdivided into fifty-two hamlets or pueblos.

Preserved from innovations by the mutual jealousy of rival potentates, as well as by the conservative temper of a pastoral population, Andorra has kept its medieval usages and institutions almost unchanged. In each parish two consuls, assisted by a local council, decide matters relating to roads, police, taxes, the division of pastures, the right to collect wood, &c. Such matters, as well as the general internal administration of the territory, are finally regulated by a Council General of 24 members (4 to each parish), elected since 1866 by the suffrages of all heads of families, but previously confined to an aristocracy composed of the richest and oldest families, whose supremacy had been preserved by the principle of primogeniture. A general syndic, with two inferior syndics, chosen by the Council General, constitutes the supreme executive of the state. Two viguiers—one nominated by France, and the other by the bishop of Urgel—command the militia, which consists of about 600 men, although all capable of bearing arms are liable to be called out. This force is exempt from all foreign service, and the chief office of the viguiers is the administration of criminal justice, in which their decisions, given simply according to their judgment and conscience, there being no written laws, are final. Civil cases, on the other hand, are tried in the first instance before one of the two aldermen, who act as deputies of the viguiers; the judgment of this court may be set aside by the civil judge of appeal, an officer nominated by France and the bishop of Urgel alternately; the final appeal is either to the Court of Cassation at Paris or to the Episcopal College at Urgel. The French viguier is taken from the French department of Ariège and appointed for life, but the viguier of the bishop must be an Andorran, holding office for three years and re-eligible. There are notaries and clerks, auditors for each parish elected by the heads of families, police agents and bailiffs, chosen and sworn in, like all the above officers, by the Council General. The archives are mostly kept in the “house of the valley” in the capital, Andorra Vicilla, a struggling village of 600 inhabitants. In this government house the Council General meets and has a chapel. Here also the aldermen, viguiers and judge of appeal administer justice and assemble for all purposes of administration. Two magistrates, styled rahanadores, are appointed by the Council General to see that viguiers and judges preserve the customs and privileges of Andorra. The parishes have a permanent patrol of six armed men besides the militia. Spain and the bishop of Urgel are very jealous of French encroachments, and claim to have a better right ultimately to annex the little state. In the meanwhile it continues to pay each of the suzerain powers £40 a year, levied by a tax on pastures.

Andorra is the sole surviving specimen of the independence possessed in medieval times by the warlike inhabitants of many Pyrenean valleys. Its privileges have remained intact, because the suzerainty of the district became equally and indivisibly shared in 1278 between the bishops of Urgel and the counts of Foix, the divided suzerainty being now inherited by the French crown and the present bishop of Urgel; and the two powers have mutually checked innovations, while the insignificant territory has not been worth a dispute. Thus Andorra is not a republic, but is designated in official documents as the Vallées et Suzerainetés. Before 1278 it was under the suzerainty of the neighbouring counts of Castelbo, to whom it had been ceded in 1170 by the counts of Urgel. A marriage between the heiress of Castelbo and Roger Bernard, count of Foix, carried the rights of the above-named Spanish counts into the house of Foix, and hence subsequently to the crown of France, when the heritage of the feudal system was absorbed by the sovereign; but the bishops of Urgel claimed certain rights, which after long disputes were satisfied by the “Act of Division” executed in 1278. The claims of the bishopric dated from Carolingian times, and the independence of Andorra, like most other Pyrenean anomalies, has been traditionally ascribed to Charlemagne (742–814).

Authorities.—With the exception of Études géographiques sur la vallée d’Andorre, by J. Bladé (Paris, 1875), the standard books on Andorra deal mainly with its history and institutions. They comprise the following:—The Valley of Andorra, translated from the French of E. B. Berthet by F. H. Deverell (Bristol, 1886); J. Aviles Arnau, El Pallás y Andorra (Barcelona, 1893); L. Dalmau de Baquer, Historia de la Republica de Andorra (Barcelona, 1849); C. Baudon de Mony, Origines historiques de la question d’Andorre (in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes, vol. 46, Paris, 1885). See also C. Baudon de Mony, Relations politiques des comtes de Foix avec la Catalogne, jusqu’au commencement du XIV e siècle (Paris, 1896). A fair map was published by A. Hartleben, of Vienna, in 1898.