The Meritxell Festival
Every September 8th, an emotional even takes place between the Andorran people and their Patron Saint.
The progressive increase of the devotion and admiration towards the Virgin throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, together with other circumstances such as embracing the national feeling by the inhabitants of Andorra, made the General Council of valleys of Andorra declare the Virgin of Meritxell the patron Saint of the Andorra Valleys. The declaration took place on October 24th 1873 by unanimous decision:
“Acknowledged the fact that Our Lady of Meritxell is considered by Valleys of Andorra as their patron saint and special protector from immemorial times”
Years later, the continued support of the different bishops/co-princes of Meritxell, together with that fervor and popular tradition that already had been developed with time, made possible the canonical declaration of the Patronage of the Virgin of Meritxell. It was the bishop Joan Benlloch Vivóla made the request onAugust 23th 1913.
It did not pass unnoticed the fact that, since the proclamation as patron saint (1873) to its Church recognition (1914, a year after its request), more than forty years passed by. The tumultuous and scrambled period of those years, together with the tensions between the bishop of Urgel and the governors of Andorra caused that it was necessary to wait for such a long time for this recognition. The Holly See, via Pope Pío X, confirmed the Virgin of Meritxell as patron saint of the Andorran people in 1914.
The Council, joyful by the news, wanted that this moment would be solemnized and decided that every September 8th would be celebrated the National Festival of the Valleys.
Years later, the bishop from Barcelona Dr. Justí Guitart i Valardebò wanted to complete the work of its predecessors and worked in favor of the canonical coronation of the Virgin as patron saint of Andorra. The recognition process concluded the 8 of September of 1921. The faculty to grant this privilege fell to the basilica of Saint Peter of Rome.
At the present time, each 8 of September, the Andorran people live a celebration on unity and harmony. A celebration where the Virgin is the absolute protagonist. Everything goes around Meritxell, everyone´s virgin. That day, thousands of people go on pilgrimage to the sanctuary, from early in the morning, to thank and to show their feeling of joy and enthusiasm. People kneel down before the virgin in a physical and spiritual way.
The power of attraction of Meritxell is quite obvious in a day like that and it is lived as such. Several events and celebrations (concerts, dancing of ‘sardanas’ (traditional dance), Eucharist, local products tasting…), are a good frame on a day like this, in which traditions and celebration fill of joy the Meritxell complex.