- Issue date: 13/01/2015
- Printing Process: Offset
- Paper: Engomado
- Size of stamp: 28.8 x 40.8 mm
- Sheet effects: 25
- Postal value of the stamps: Tarifa A (0.42 €)
- Print run: Ilimitada
- Theme: El Romanic
Verge de Meritxell
The first Spanish series of stamps issued for Andorra in 2015 is dedicated to the Romanesque, and more specifically to a detail of the wood carving of the Virgin of Meritxell, the patron saint and protector of the Principality of Andorra. The most characteristic artistic style of this small country is the Romanesque, closely related to Catalan art, with a rich heritage of churches, civil architecture, sculpture and painting.
The carving is in the Shrine of Our Lady of Meritxell, in the village of the same name, in the parish of Canillo, 1527 metres above sea level. The earliest mentions of Meritxell date from 1176, when the people of the valleys of Andorra signed an agreement with the bishopric of Seu d'Urgell. The Romanesque building was very simple and was completely remodelled in the 17th century.
In 1972, a disastrous fire destroyed the building, leaving only the original apse, the vault over the altar and the bell tower. A new shrine was commissioned and awarded to architect Ricardo Bofill. The new building is eclectic in style, with an outstanding interplay between the shrine and the natural landscape around it, offering visitors the peaceful contemplation and serenity of a religious site.
The initial architectural concept was to create a huge, grandiose work. But Bofill only produced a small part of this idea. It comprises a central building with a barrel vault, a skewed Greek cross plan and a square apse. The Romanesque inspiration can be seen in the set of interrelated arches and towers. Large openings bring the attached cloister, with a rib vault, and the landscape into the building. This new shrine was opened in 1976, and was unusually austere, with little or no decoration.
This shrine and the Baroque church rebuilt in 1994 form a historic site, declared of cultural interest by the Government of Andorra. In 2014, Pope Francis declared the shrine a Minor Basilica, and that year it became part of the so-called Marian Route alongside other churches of northern Spain and southern France.
The Romanesque carving which features in the stamp was lost in the fire of 1972. The image of La Mare de Déu de Meritxell had been dated to the 12th century, although some researchers regarded it as earlier due to its rustic appearance and simplicity. The Virgin appears seated, with the Child on her lap. The current image is a copy of the original Romanesque wood carving, of which there are three accurate replicas: one in the church of Sant Esteve in Andorra la Vella, another in the Meritxell Clinic, and a third which was given by the Consell General to the bishop of Seu de Urgell, the co-Prince of Andorra.