The people of Andorra celebrate the Day of Our Lady of Meritxell every year on September 8. As much as this is a religious celebration, it is one of the most meaningful national holidays in Andorra, as it also coincides with Andorran National Day. This celebration commemorates Our Lady of Meritxell, a Catholic statue depicting an apparition of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of Andorra. The tradition has a rich history and remains undiminished even today.
History of Our Lady of Meritxell Day
Our Lady of Meritxell refers to a statue depicting an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the Sanctuary of Meritxell in Andorra, a landlocked microstate on the Iberian Peninsula. As the patron saint of Andorra, Our Lady of Meritxell is an important religious figure, and commemorating this national symbol is one of the most important occasions on the Andorran calendar. The story behind this figure has religious significance and refers to the founding of a church and a town.
The story takes place in the late 12th century. One winter morning, villagers from Meritxell were going to mass in the parish of Canillo in the north of Andorra. On their way, they observed a blooming wild rose. This was particularly strange for them, as the flower was out of season. As they gathered and looked at the growing flower, they noticed an object at its base, soon revealed to be a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The legend tells of several attempts made by these villagers to relocate the statue to a chapel or a church in the neighboring towns and villages, to no avail. Every morning, the statue was found back at the original place, at the base of the blooming wild rose. Eventually, the villagers of Meritxell took this as a sign to build a chapel for their town.
Indeed, the chapel of Meritxell was one of the oldest in Andorra before it burnt down in 1972, destroying the sacred statue. This happened on September 8, which gives the date of this celebration its significance. The chapel was rebuilt in 1976, with a replica of the original statue installed.
Our Lady of Meritxell Day timeline
Villagers in Meritxell come across the statue of the Virgin Mary for the first time.
On September 8, a fire destroys the Chapel of Meritxell built in honor of the apparition of the statue.
The chapel of Meritxell is rebuilt, with a new replica of the statue erected in its place.
After a referendum, Andorra joins the U.N. and initiates constitutional reform in a historic moment for the country.
Our Lady of Meritxell Day FAQs
What size is the area of Andorra?
Andorra is considered one of the smallest countries with a small area of 181 sq. miles.
How many people live in Andorra?
There are around 85, 000 citizens currently living in Andorra, making it one of the least populated countries.
Is Andorra good for tourism?
Andorra is considered one of the best destinations for tourism and travel. It offers beautiful natural landscapes and the people are very welcoming.
How to Observe Our Lady of Meritxell Day
Read about the country’s history
Andorra has a rich history. Not only is it one of the more interesting narratives from European history, but it is also an incredible story of how the people sought their independence through a long and eventful history.
Join local communities
On this special day, there are sure to be some local communities and cultural associations celebrating the observance by organizing different events. Check online for these and perhaps even volunteer.
What better would there be to celebrate this holiday than to visit the country. Andorra is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and on this day, the festivities and gatherings will surely be a treat. And, if you can't visit, research and sight-see online.
5 Interesting Facts About Andorra
It’s a very small country
Andorra is considered one of the smallest countries in the world with an area of 181 sq. miles.
The world’s only co-principality
Andorra is the only country in the world that is ruled by two rulers: the president of France and the Catholic bishop of Urgell.
Many years of peace
Andorra has known almost 1,000 years of peace, with the last conflict affecting the country being Charlemagne’s incursions against the Moors in the eighth century.
It has no central bank
Andorra is the only country in the world to not have a central bank; Andorrans rely on the Euro as currency.
High life expectancy
Andorra is known for its high life expectancy, which extends to about 83 years.
Why Our Lady of Meritxell Day is Important
It’s the story about the founding of a nation
Like many other historic myths of the founding of a nation, this story has the particularity of taking on a different meaning with the country’s independence. It began as a village miracle and later marked the whole country.
It recognizes the heritage of a people
The apparition of the Virgin Mary statue in Meritxell is one of the most significant stories in Andorra culture and heritage. The celebration itself is not only about the memory of the event but has come to symbolize the unity of a country
It’s significant for Andorrans
Many Andorrans still celebrate this tradition to this day. Although the factual history surrounding the apparition is not clearly known, the significance of the event is what matters. For many Andorrans, this is the most important day of the year.
Our Lady of Meritxell Day dates