HISTORY & CULTURE
Andorra's history & culture owes much to that of its larger neighbours.
The Mediterranean coast around Barcelona was colonised by the Romans in 125BC, marking the birth of the Catalan language from its roots in Latin.
The next important era was the arrival of the Moors in AD711. Their invasion thrust as far north as Poitiers in France and their Islamic influence, particularly on Spanish architecture and language, was considerable; but the Catalans looked to the Christian Franks (the French) for protection, ceding Barcelona to them in return for liberating the city from Moorish rule. As a result, the region came under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and was known as the Marca Hispanica (the Spanish Mark). Charlemagne respected the rights of the Catalans to administer themselves, and is also believed to have granted independent rights to the native Homes des Valls d'Andorra (Men of the Valleys of Andorra), as a reward for their assistance in his military campaigns.
The Spanish Mark remained as a distant province of the Empire, eventually becoming detached as the power of the Catalan aristocracy increased.
Count Ramon Berenguer III of Barcelona (1096–1131) married Dolça, heiress to Provence, thus gaining her French territories. This expansion of the region led to a rapid increase in foreign trade and witnessed the cultural awakening of Catalunya during the next three hundred years.
BIRTH OF A PRINCIPALITY
As part of the diocese of La Seu d'Urgell in Spain, all Andorran monasteries and parishes were owned or controlled by the Bishop of Urgell.
However, a local viscount also held feudal rights. In 1250, the viscount's only daughter married the French Count of Foix, who then declared rights by marriage over Andorra when his father-in-law died. This led to nearly thirty years of feuding over control of Andorra between the house of Foix and the bishopric of Urgell.
The Andorrans, caught in the middle, persuaded the two sides to meet and thrashed out an agreement. In 1288 the Pareatges Treaty was signed, formally creating the Principality of Andorra. The basis of the agreement was that if one neighbouring power couldn't fully control Andorra, then neither could the other. Effectively, the treaty established the first ever recorded declaration of a demilitarised zone, explaining why there are no castles to be found in Andorra.
The treaty also gave the lords dual and equivalent rights, conferring on them both the equal title of Co-Prince of Andorra.
Royal & Imperial Connections
The Bishop of Urgell is [still] referred to by Andorrans as the Episcopal Co-Prince; his previous counterpart, the Count of Foix, was known as the French Co-Prince. However, the house of Foix eventually became part of the house of Navarra, which produced Henry IV, King of France, through whom the French Co-Prince title passed to the French Crown.
When Louis XVI was guillotined in 1793 during the French Revolution, the Co-Prince lineage died with him. Nevertheless, in order to retain a favourable relationship with the French, the astute Andorrans resurrected the title by presenting it as a ceremonial appellation to Napoleon Bonaparte, following his coronation as Emperor of France in 1804. The title eventually passed to the office of President of the French Republic, and the inhabitants of Andorra were left more or less to look after their own affairs.
Andorra's borders have therefore remained unchanged for centuries, and much of the Principality's medieval and feudal systems survived, by default, in isolation; with many continuing to shape the country's present-day institutions.