Our Lady of Meritxell
Our lady of Merixell has been, is and will be the spiritual guide of the Andorran people, the Light that will enlighten the life of its citizens.
She has always been linked to the history of Andorra. This fact can be noticed in any event or ceremony that is celebrated around the Mother of God and becoming a waste of passion and devotion. It can be said that the Principality cannot be explained without its virgin and vice versa.
The renovation of the faith and faithfulness to their patron saint is synthesized with the presence of both sanctuaries (old and the new one) in the Meritxell complex. They are a bridge between the pasts and new times, assuring the continuity and the strength of the spirit and the Church.
Previously to the replica that today dominates the church of the new sanctuary, there was another statue of the Virgin of Meritxell (the original one), that was kept in the old sanctuary of Santa Maria de Meritxell until its disappearance due to the 1972 fire.
This Romanesque image was considered one of the oldest that were been preserved until them. It was dated between the 11th and 12th centuries. It was in fact from the 12th century when the cult to the Mother of God began to have a great relevance in the churches and the carving of statues of Virgin Mary began at that time.
The Romanesque image was a wooden polychromy of 33in. of height. It had a static expression. The Virgin, enthroned, seated in hieratic attitude, was wearing a crown of five flowers on the head and a white veil under the crown, with adorned edges. In the back side of the throne, following the standards of the Romanesque statures of those days, there was a cavity destined surely to the safekeeping of relics or other pieces. The Mother was dressed in a red tunic, decorated with flowers and stars, and covered with a blue cloth that left its hands at sight.
The right hand stood out due to its great proportions in relation to the rest of the body. This emphasized the gesture of blessing and welcome of the Mother to the children. Images of that time, with this specific characteristic, were denominated `Virgins of the long hand‘. The left hand was holding a seated baby Jesus who was not wearing a crown. He also had the right hand raised in a blessing attitude. His left hand was pushing a book against his chest.
The Mother was wearing the typical wooden flat shoes that mountain farmers used to wear while bay Jesus was barefooted.
The image that is venerated nowadays in the church of the new sanctuary is a faithful reproduction of the burned one. It was carved by the Andorran artist Jaume Rossa. In fact, the great devotion that has always existed towards this advocacy (started in the medieval times) in Andorran valleys, made encourage several masters to carve a number copies since then. , many of them can still be appreciated nowadays.
The image placed in the new temple does not forget the characteristics of the original one. It shows, just like the old one, the following structure:
- The position and great dimensions of the figure of the mother, symbolizing safeguard and protection that a mother gives to her children
The eyes of the Mother, standing out in an exaggerated way, express eternity and spirituality.
- The deliberate unnatural disproportion represents the true and important reality of the Divine. These imperfect and vigilant eyes allow that although the visitor does not watch her, she is still seeing the visitor. The Virgin can read the hearts of the pilgrims
- And finally, the shoes that she is wearing are the typical pile shoes that mountain farmers used to wear
The artist carved this image from several photographs of the original one, and the message that it is transmitted to us is clear: the Queen of the Sky and the Earth is simple and humble. She wants and loves all the same.
In the interior of the temple, the Virgin is surrounded and accompanied by seven statues of the holy patron saints of the seven parishes of Andorra. These figures are sculpted by the Andorran artist Sergi But. They correspond to the following saints: Saint Serni of Canillo, Saint Eulàlia of Encamp, Saint Corneli of Ordino, Saint Iscle of the Massana, Saint Esteve of Andorra la Vella, Saint Julià of Lòria and Saint Pere Màrtir of Escaldes – Engordany.
The Virgen de Meritxell is the Patron Saint of the Principality and festivals in her honor are celebrated on September 8.
The prayers to the Virgin of Meritxell written by the parish priest of Canillo and rector of the sanctuary, Mosén Ramon, reflect the meaning of the sanctuary for pilgrims and the devote:
Meritxell of silence, teach us to listen.
Meritxell of the mountains, teach us to appreciate.
Meritxell of the snow, teach us not to lie, to be true to ourselves.
Meritxell of the rose-bush, teach us the joy of giving and of being humble.
Meritxell of the narcissi, teach us the sweetness of life.
Meritxell of the clear skies and resplendent sun, show us the Light.
Meritxell dweller of the meadows and the lowly crofts, teach us simplicity.
Meritxell of suffering, teach us to pray.
Meritxell of the children, teach us to smile.
Meritxell of peace, teach us solidarity.
Meritxell, Mother of Andorrans, teach us unity.
Meritxell, Mother of God, teach us to love.