What is the most remarkable historical architectural style in Andorra?
The answer is, without a doubt, the Romanesque style, which can be found in religious and civil architecture, as well as painting and sculpture.
Romanesque art in Andorra is characterised mainly by the absence of large buildings. Instead, there are a great number of small buildings like some 40 churches.
In most cases, the structures are very simple and lack any decorative elements. This, however, is compensated by the perfect combination of austere sobriety and beauty. And their principal appeal lies in the Lombard-style bell towers, which may be cylindrical or square. Other features include divided windows and blind arches. One example is the church at Santa Coloma in Andorra la Vella.
As regards pictorial and decorative art, there are 11 churches in Andorra that contain the remains of frescoes. Santa Coloma, for instance, is a pre-Romanesque building from the 10th Century. It has a very special circular Lombard bell tower, which is unique to the Principality of Andorra and rare throughout the area of the Pyrenees mountain region. Inside Santa Coloma there is a colourful wooden bust of Our Lady Remei (12th Century) and traces of Romanesque mural paintings.
Among the architectural jewels of Andorra, there is Sant Joan de Caselles in Canillo, which dates back to the 11th Century. It boasts the typical Romanesque style of Andorra, which features a rectangular nave, wooden ceiling, semicircular apse and Lombard-style bell tower. There is also a unique stucco Romanesque Christ figure with a mural behind it that depicts the crucifixion.
Sant Romà de les Bons in Encamp is made up of the church of Santa Romà (12th Century), a defence tower (13th Century), an old stone water tank and irrigation network, several pigeon houses, and the remains of a 13th Century fortified Andorran house.
The Centre of Historical Andorra (museum) is also worth a visit. So is the well-preserved village of Les Bons, Sant Climent de Pal in Pal and La Massana, which is one of the best preserved in Andorra.
Las Massana dates back to the late 9th Century. It is Romanic in style and boasts a remarkable example of the Lombard bell tower with a square base, three floors of twin windows, and a top floor with a double twin window arrangement. It’s the only one of its kind in Andorra.
The Pal Romanesque Andorra Interpretation Centre is also worth of a visit. So is Sant Miguel d’Engolasters in Escaldes-Engordany, which was built sometime before the 12th Century in an austere Romanic style of Andorra.
Inside Sant Miguel d‘Engolasters are replicas of the magnificent 12th Century murals. The originals are now housed in the National Museum for Catalan Art in Barcelona.
Also with a Romanesque character, the Casa de la Vall tells the story of Andorra. In 1419 an inter-parish organisation was ratified and became the embryo of the Council of the Land, which was later renamed the General Council of the Valleys of Andorra.
Casa de la Vall is the seat of this body, which serves as the national parliament. The edifice was constructed in 1580 according to the date on the keystone at the entrance. It belonged to the Busquets family and was purchased by the General Council in 1702. The building has a square ground plan and the interior is divided by three master walls as is typical in Catalan patrician country houses. Social instability in the late 16th Century and questions of social distinction explain the presence of various defensive elements (cannon hole, tower and battlements). What is more, aside from the Romanesque-style, there is also the Perfume Museum in Escaldes. This is a must-see for any visitor. The museum takes visitors on a unique tour of the world of perfume and all its essences and aromas. An audiovisual presentation explains the evolution of perfume and its history. The exposition of flasks and bottles reflect the art of perfume-making during the 20th Century. The museum has over 25,000 pieces of which over 1,000 are on display.