Legends of Andorra on Andorran stamps - Meritxell; Seven-branched cross; Battle of Seturia

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 47, pp2-3 (Mar 1998).

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Legends of Andorra

by David Hope

Legends stamps

The Legend of Meritxell

The legend of Meritxell is about the discovery of the original statue of the Virgin of Meritxell. According to the legend it happened one 6th January, the feast of the Magi. The villagers from Meritxell were going to Canillo to hear mass as was the custom.

They were surprised to find a wild rose in bloom by the roadside. When they approached it they saw at the foot of the bush a statue of the Virgin and Child. The statue was taken to the church at Canillo, placed in a chapel and then the church was locked.

The next day the statue was found to be missing. A search was begun. Then some travellers said that they had seen the wild rose in flower and the statue under it.

Villagers from Encamp then came and took the statue back to their church. But the next day the statue had again disappeared. Villagers this time went to the wild rose bush and sure enough the statue of the Virgin was there. But another strange thing had happened. As they were making their way to the place it had begun to snow but as they approached the wild rose bush an area of the size of a chapel was completely bare of snow. The Andorrans understood from this that this was where the statue wanted to be. Therefore they built a chapel there and an Oratory where it had been found.

Over the years the chapel was enlarged and in 1873 the General Council decided to officially proclaim the Virgin of Meritxell as Patroness of Andorra. Unfortunately on 8/9th September 1972 the chapel burnt down and the statue was destroyed. A copy is now in the new Meritxell Chapel.

The Cross With Seven Arms

7-branched cross

The cross in this legend is situated on the old road from Canillo to Meritxell. It has, in fact, six arms and not seven. The reason for this is the subject of the legend.

A poor youth who lived in the village of Prats was afraid that one day he would meet the devil. The other young people decided to have fun at his expense.

They persuaded the youth to go to Canillo to fetch some wine for a supper. To overcome his fears they gave him a musket but it was primed with flour! When he arrived at Canillo the inn-keeper was busy so the youth left the bottle on the counter, propped the musket behind the open door and went for a walk in the village. While he was out the inn-keeper filled the bottle and then saw the musket. Finding it was badly charged he charged it correctly. The youth returned, paid for the wine, took the musket and set off home.

Meanwhile seven young lads had decided one of them would confront the youth on his way home wearing a white sheet. After all there was no danger .....   And so it happened. The youth thinking it was the devil fired the gun then ran home to say he had killed the devil. The others laughed at him. They returned to the scene but the lad in the white sheet had disappeared.

The cross was erected to remind people of the consequences of unkind deeds. The seven arms represented the seven lads. Mysteriously one disappeared just as the lad in the white sheet had done.

A longer version of this story appeared in Bulletin no.17 pages 9 and 10.

The Battle of Seturia
(la Font de l'Esmelicat)

This legend explains how the Coma de Seturia, magnificent grazing lands on the rounded summit of a mountain came to be part of Andorra and not part of Spain.

In the dim and distant past the shepherds of Os, in Spain and Pal, in Andorra quarrelled about who had the grazing rights. It is said that even the Andorran sheep would not mix with the Spanish ones! No one seemed to be able to come up with a solution.

One day however it was decided that the answer was to have a wrestling match with a champion from each village. The winner's village would win the grazing rights.

The champions were chosen. The one from Os was tall and heavy, the one from Pal was strongly built but very thin. When the match began the Spaniard led into the fight but the Andorran dodged him and began to run. Then he came back again, then he ran. Soon the Spanish champion was tiring. The Andorran took the opportunity to jump on him and hold him down until the referee declared him the winner. He was carried back to Pal in triumph and so the Coma de Seturia became part of Andorra.

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Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 15 June 1998