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A principality of only 181 square miles, Andorra is located in the heart of the Pyrenees between France and Spain. It is a picturesque land of gorges and valleys drained by the Valira River. Historians speculate that the original inhabitants of Andorra were related to the Basque people of northern Spain. Other pre-Roman inhabitants included Celts, Iberians, and a small tribe called the Andosinos. Andorra was part of the Roman empire and when Rome fell it became a gateway for the barbaric tribes of Alans, Visgoths and Vandals into the Iberian peninsula.
By the time the Moors conquered Spain, Andorra was Christian. Andorrans welcomed Charlemagne’s incursions against the Moors in the 8th century. The most important document in Andorran history is the Carta de Fundacio d’Andorra, written by Charlemagne to grant Andorra’s independence. However, there are many who suspect that the document is a forgery, self-made by Andorrans to support their claims to independence from Spain and France. The country is divided ecclesiastically and civilly into parishes. Andorra had seven histroic parishes: Andorra la Vella, Aós, Canillo, Encamp, La Massana,Ordino, and Sant Julià de Lòria. Aós was dissolved in 1936. In 1978, the new parish of Escaldes-Engordany was established.
After the death of Charlemagne, Andorra came under the influence of the Count of Urgel, one of the most powerful families of the Spanish nobility. In 1133 the Count of Urgel ceded Andorra to the Bishop of Urgel. In 1159 Andorra became the object of a prolonged struggle between the Count of Foix (from France) and the Bishop of Urgel. The bloody dispute lasted for decades and was settled in 1278 when France and Spain agreed that the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgel would be joint rulers. The treaty mandated an annual tribute that is still paid to the Bishop of Urgel and the President of France (as the successor to the counts of Foix). The twin heads of state are referred to as “co-princes.”
In 1419 Andorra was granted permission to establish a parliament, known as the Council of the Land. In 1933 several Andorrans sponsored an attempt to establish a kingdom under Boris de Skossyreff, a Russian. Several days later “King Boris” was removed by several guardsmen of the Bishop of Urgel. The French sent in squads of gendarmes to keep domestic order, and a new parliament was elected.
The Council of the Land consists of twenty-eight members elected for four years, half of whom represent the seven parishes and the other half elected on the basis of a national constituency. In 1981 an executive branch of government was created with a Head of Government (elected by the Council of the Land), and four to six ministers responsible over such areas as defense, education, finance, foreign affairs, and tourism. In the twentieth century, Andorra has become a popular tourist destination and an important international retail center because of its low taxes and lack of customs duties.
The 1968 population was 18,000. It doubled by 1982 and doubled again by 1999 when there were 65,877 inhabitants. The people are ethnically Catalan and, by religion, Roman Catholic. The capital of Andorra la Vella has 21,630 inhabitants and is the largest town.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Andorra,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1990-1999.