Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell, Andorra

Santuari de Meritxell, Meritxell, Andora

Website of the Sanctuary

+(376) 851 253

Wednesday to Monday: From 9.00 am to 1.00 pm & from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell, Andorra

The Principality of Andorra, also known as ‘The country of the Pyrenees’, is a land that holds a great cultural and historic legacy. Its inhabitants have been raised under the values of love and respect for nature. In the middle of the principality, surrounded by nature and enclosed in a scenery of great beauty, it is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell.

It is the symbol and emblem of a passionate nation. The church of Meritxell (the new church), has been recently recognised with the title and the honour of ‘Minor Basilica’. The title was granted by Pope Francis.

Coming to Andorra and having the best stay:

The wooden statue of Our Lady of Meritxell

The image that can currently be seen in the sanctuary and that is venerated by the faithful and travelers is a copy of the Romanesque carving disappeared the night of September 9th 1972, in the fire that seriously affected the sanctuary.

The holly image that disappeared due to the fire was a Romanesque carving of the 12th century. Experts claim that it was one of oldest of that Pyrenean area. Sitting solemnly in hieratic attitude, holds bay Jesus in her lap, who raises his left hand, just as the Mother does. She wore a five rosette crown in her head and over a white veil that covered head and shoulders.

Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell

The mother had the right hand exaggeratedly long (emphasizing the welcoming action and the sign of blessing), just like many other images carved in that period. They are known as the “with a long hand”.

The baby Jesus, who repeats the gesture of the Mother, goes barefoot unlike the mother who wears the typical wooden flat shoes that mountain farmers used to wear.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell. The complex includes the old church of Mertixell of Romanesque style and the new sanctuary (with the new church ‘Minor Basilica’). This one was designed by the architect Ricardo Bofill. The origins of the sanctuary go back many centuries, although it is impossible to be exact on the actual date.

However, there is a beautiful legend that has been passing from parents to children. This legend has put together the testimony of faith and devotion professed to the patron saint of Andorra since then and all the way to our times. Andorra breaths nature. It beats at the rhythm of this great green heart that can be seen in every corner of the country. The pilgrim and the visitor are welcomed with unique landscapes and sceneries of unmatched beauty.

Origins of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell

The origin of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell, as it happens with many other sanctuaries does not have written documentation with specific and accurate information that allows a true reconstruction of the beginning.

However, there is an evidence of the oral tradition that has passed from parents to children and that it has came to us as a beautiful legend. Just as it happens with most popular stories, this one includes a different touch depending who tells the story, but in essence, the origins of the sanctuary were pretty much as it follows:

“… from the village of Meritxell, in the morning of January 6th, the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (‘Three Kings day’ or ‘the coming of the Magi), a shepherd went to Canillo to attend the mass of such an important day.

When passing by the spot in which today we can find the sanctuary, a bloomed rose bush with green leaves caught his attention. It was obviously a strange sight. Everything was covered by snow and the aspect of the rose bush was spring like. When he approached the bush, he was surprised when he realized that on its feet there was a beautiful carving of Our Lady.

With surprise and joy he went to Canillo to announce the miracle to the parish priest and the rest of its inhabitants. Once the mass had finished, everyone went in procession towards Meritxell. They picked up the carved image and took it to Canillo. They placed it in the high altar of the church and promise of making an altarpiece in her honor.

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The wooden statue of Our Lady of Meritxell

The image that can currently be seen in the sanctuary and that is venerated by the faithful and travelers is a copy of the Romanesque carving disappeared the night of September 9th 1972, in the fire that seriously affected the sanctuary. The holly image that disappeared due to the fire was a Romanesque carving of the 12th century. Experts claim that it was one of oldest of that Pyrenean area. Sitting solemnly in hieratic attitude, holds bay Jesus in her lap, who raises his left hand, just as the Mother does. She wore a five rosette crown in her head and over a white veil that covered head and shoulders.

The mother had the right hand exaggeratedly long (emphasizing the welcoming action and the sign of blessing), just like many other images carved in that period. They are known as the “with a long hand”.

The baby Jesus, who repeats the gesture of the Mother, goes barefoot unlike the mother who wears the typical wooden flat shoes that mountain farmers used to wear.

Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell andoraThe carving that is venerated nowadays is a faithful copy of the old one. It emphasizes three key characteristics of the medieval stature: great dimensions of the body, symbolizing the protection given by a mother to her children;

The Mother eyes, are shown in an exaggerated way giving the message that even when the visitor is not looking, she is looking at them; and finally, the shoes she is wearing, the typical wooden flat shoes that mountain farmers used to wear. The message of the artist is clear: The queen of Heaven and earth is modest and humble and she loves everyone equally.

The Sanctuary of Meritxell belongs to the parish of Canillo in the Principality of Andorra. It is located between France and Spain. Important cities such as Barcelona or Toulouse are within a 200 km radio.

By air
There are several airports within a 200 kilometers radio from Andorra. The most important ones are Toulouse, Barcelona and Girona
More information at:
www.toulouse.aeroport.fr
Aeroport of Barcelona
Aeroport of Girona

By train
If you are one of those who enjoy travelling on a train, you will only be able to use it on the first part of the trip. The final part hast to be done by bus.

Road
Itineraries & distances from important cities
* From Madrid (609 km.), by Zaragoza – Fraga – Lleida – Balaguer – Ponts – La Seu D’Urgell
* From Barcelona (198 km.), byr Manresa – Berga – Bellver de Cerdanya – La Seu D’Urgell
* From Toulouse (184 km.), by Villefranche de laurragais – Saverdun – Varilhes – Foix – Ax les Thermes

Bus connections
Several towns have bus connections with the Principality of Andorra. You can find more information on bus services in the following link (information in catalan): www.mobilitat.ad

Religious Services: Mass Schedule: Every Sunday at 12.30 p.m. Saturdays, Easter vigil & All Saints Day vigil at 6 p.m. Special or specific mass: Date & time to be arranged with the sanctuary rector.

Oratorios of Meritxell

There are two oratorios on the road to the village of Prats. These two oratorios announce the arrival to the home of the Virgin to the visitors. Pedestals with ‘stone of the country’ hold the chapel that serves as shrine to a small image of Our Lady of Meritxell. On the feet of this pedestal there is a stone slab that the faithful and travelers use as kneeling point for their prayers and pleadings.

The oratorios are decorated with wild rose bush that in spring are covered with white and pink petals. During the summer, the colors change to the intense red of the fruit. Those wild rose bushes were chosen as a tribute to that rose bush that according to the legend (enlazar con ‘origins of the sanctuary’) bloomed in the middle of a snowy winter day. This rose bush indicated the presence of the image of the Virgin to a shepherd on a January 6th.

Origins of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell

The origin of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell, as it happens with many other sanctuaries does not have written documentation with specific and accurate information that allows a true reconstruction of the beginning. However, there is an evidence of the oral tradition that has passed from parents to children and that it has came to us as a beautiful legend. Just as it happens with most popular stories, this one includes a different touch depending who tells the story, but in essence, the origins of the sanctuary were pretty much as it follows…

“… from the village of Meritxell, in the morning of January 6th, the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (‘Three Kings day’ or ‘the coming of the Magi), a shepherd went to Canillo to attend the mass of such an important day. When passing by the spot in which today we can find the sanctuary, a bloomed rose bush with green leaves caught his attention. It was obviously a strange sight. Everything was covered by snow and the aspect of the rose bush was spring like. When he approached the bush, he was surprised when he realized that on its feet there was a beautiful carving of Our Lady. With surprise and joy he went to Canillo to announce the miracle to the parish priest and the rest of its inhabitants. Once the mass had finished, everyone went in procession towards Meritxell. They picked up the carved image and took it to Canillo. They placed it in the high altar of the church and promise of making an altarpiece in her honor.

Posted in Andora and Europe

Tagged In andora,Catholic Pilgrimage Sites and merixtell