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Andorra La Vella History, Andorra

Andorra la Vella is the tiny capital of the co-principality of Andorra, one of the smallest states on the continent. Andorra la Vella was built high in the Pyrenees, and it famous for its beautiful ski resorts which attract thousands of tourists every year. The city earns most if its income from tourism, so naturally there are enough attractions to keep the visitors coming. Andorra la Vella is nestled in a steep gorge atop the mountains, so the city is quite small, but surprisingly there is still enough space for its inhabitants, numerous shops, bars and restaurants, and even tourists. The city has a rich history, which is clearly reflected in Andorra’s old district. All the neighbouring peoples have lent to Andorra elements of their cultures, thus creating a truly unique city. This Andorra la Vella History Guide will briefly go over the major events that shaped the history of this charming city.

Andorra la Vella History - Early history

At the end of the 8th century, Charlemagne created a buffer zone, named Marca Hispanica, in order to protect the Frankish Kingdom against the Moors. Andorra is the last independent survivor of the Marca Hispanic today, although it used to include Barcelona, Pamplona and many other former Spanish city-states. Charleamgne supposedly granted Andorra a charter in return for fighting the Moors, but there is no historical proof for this legend. In the 9th century, the descendant of Charlemagne named the Count of Urgell the ruler of Andorra, but the country later fell under the influence of the Diocese of Urgell. In the 11th century, the Bishop of Urgell swore allegiance to a Catalan noble in order to protect the land from its larger and more powerful neighbours. The French and the Catalans fought over Andorra, and the conflict was solved in 1278 when the two parties signed a treaty of pareage, a feudal institution that recognized the sovereignty of two rulers with equal powers. Interestingly enough, the state’s borders have hardly changed since the 13th century, and neither has its political organization, since Andorra is still ruled by two princes. In the Middle Ages, not Andorra’s history went on quite peacefully, except for a few incidents. In 1396 and in 1512, the state was annexed to Aragon, but Andorra still remained a co-principality.

Andorra la Vella History - 19th century to the present

In 1812-1813, during the Napoleonic Wars, Catalonia and Andorra came under French rule, and the co-principality became part of the district of Segre. The 20th century was an interesting time for Andorra. In 1933, following some civil unrest, the French occupied the city. The following year, Boris Skossyreff, an adventurer, proclaimed himself Prince Boris I and started a war with the Bishop of Urgell, but his reign didn’t last long, because in 1936 he was arrested by Spanish soldiers. Andorra remained neutral during World War II although some French garrisons were stationed in the city to staunch the influence of Franco. In 1993, the co-principality became nothing more than a symbol, and now the state is ruled by a government.

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