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Mountain Museum of Feudal Europe – October 1933

By Lawrence A. Fernsworth

The National Geographic Magazine

Published by the National Geographic Society

Vol. LXIV, N0.4 – Washington – October 1933

Andorra, or the Valleys of Andorra, as it is more officially called, is a strange little country set down in a labyrinth of mountains, furrowed by deep valleys and narrow defiles. A modest triangle on the map shows where it lies in the chain of the Pyrenees.

To enter Andorra is like turning back the pages of time by centuries — its national birthday dates from only twelve years after William the Conqueror set foot on English soil — and the land has aptly been called a living museum of feudal Europe. Here one may study feudal institutions and customs almost exactly as they existed more than 600 years ago.

This land, with only 191 square miles of area and some 5,000 people, has three rulers, two of them designated as Princes, and the third is President. Yet it is neither principality nor republic; it does not fit any modern political pigeonhole. It is a land of unwritten law, where custom and usage, handed down for centuries from father to son, any more binding than written word.

A Modest, peaceful revolution

Last April six centuries of somnolence and isolation were disturbed by a revolution, a very small revolution which promises to change certain customs that have persisted for centuries.

On that day Andorran youth, weary of having no voice in the countries affairs, stormed the House of the Valleys while the Council was in session and forced the Council to accept a decree which thereafter would give the vote and the right to hold office to all Andorran citizens of 25 years or more. The decree further provided that the sessions of the Council should be public. The young Andorrans then hurried to the principal villages of the valleys and read the decree. Since then the patriarchs have sought to repudiate the concessions, on the ground that they were wrested from them by force; and the quiet valleys still are in turmoil with plans and compromise plans.

It was on a day of late September that I found myself at Hospitalet, the last French outpost in that part of the Pyrenees, with a pack on my back and my face set toward Andorra.

Looking dimly ahead through the mist, as I left the French village behind me, I beheld a gigantic jumble of mountain tilted at crazy angles, their peaks lost in heavy gray clouds.

On a continental divide

Soon a drizzle turned to heavier rain, and the rain changed to huge damp flakes of snow. Then lightning shot flames among the peaks and thunder began to explode against them. I became so enveloped in clouds that I could make out only the dim outlines of the mountains up whose steep sides I was climbing. They broke upon my view now and then as the hull of a ship breaks through the fog. The storm varied its cadence as I trudged forward for nearly two hours until finally I reached the summit of the Port (pass) d’Embalire (also known as the Col d’Envalira), whence the descent would begin. By that time the storm was subsiding. There was a spot at one end of the summit from which I could look straight down into the two valleys which here met head-on, for I was standing on a continental divide.

The Ariège, which took its course here and found its way into France, would eventually empty its waters, via the Garonne, into the Atlantic. The Valira del Oriente, which forced its way through Andorra’s principal valley, through which my route also lay, would eventually reach Spain and join other rivers to empty its waters into the Mediterranean.


Across the valley the pointed and pinnacled crests of two famous cirques (steep-walled, amphitheater recesses high on the mountain sides) soared blackly above that sea of clouds. One was the Font Negre, somber, jagged, and tousled with patches of clouds lying in its hollows and hugging its sides like snow. Almost shoulder to shoulder with it was the Cirque des Pessons, a majestic, symmetrical circle of peaks guarded at each end by sentinel peaks, and with walls concaved like the inner sides of a bowl. Very soon now, on both sides of these cirques where cloud draperies hung, there would be patches of snow instead.

“Main street” is a mule trail

I plunged down among the clouds that had been surging below me. I got under them and was again travelling through mist. In another hour I had reached Soldeu, the first Andorran outpost and the village that boasts the highest altitude, about 6,000 feet, of any in Andorra. It was dusk, but I was able to see that Soldeu sat on the high shoulder of a mountain that sloped easily down to the newly born Valira del Oriente. The flanks of the mountains across the valley were green with pine to their very tops. The village itself was a mere cluster of gray houses and barnes built of slate and cobbles. Its single cobbled street was a mule trail. Tucked away among its edifices was a small church. On an occasional Sunday the priest would trudge up here to say mass. Although Soldeu did not possess anything so attuned to modern life as a café or a store, it did have its hotel. The building, of gray slate, with a low-lying gaffe roof, stood on the slope by the side of the road. It looked down on a garden, which turned into meadow as it raced down to the edge of the river that brushed by the foot of the opposite mountain. Within were floors of rough planks, rafters of roughly hewn timbers, a room with a long plank table worn smooth, another room just off it with a short table, some faded pictures and maps on its walls. The larger room was a “second-class” dining room, reserved for sheep and mule herders and mountaineers. The other was for “first-class” guests—adventurous travellers, if and when they came by.

A primitive mountain kitchen

But what attracted me most was the kitchen. Later I was to discover many like it, some even more primitive. This one had a hard floor of earth and, at one end, a fireplace, from which flames were licking the black sides of a pot in which most of the evening’s meals was cooking. from wooden pegs thrust into smoke-darkened rafters hung hams, sausages, and slabs of codfish, while shiny pots and pans swung from other pegs on the wall. Here I had my first contact with man since I had turned my back on Hospitalet, and also my first glimpse of some of Andorra’s strange customs. As I sat on a little bench by the kitchen fire drying my dampened clothes and warming myself, Mother Bonell prepared the supper. And by the table on which the family meal would be served, apart from the “first-“ and “second – class” guests, the host, Jaume Bonell, was reading the paper. A tall, angular, eagle-beaked mountaineer was Jaume, whose eyes, under shaggy brows, seemed to see a great deal without peering to sharply. When he stood erect he planted himself with a gaunt and loose awkwardness, with outward-hung arms, in a pose reminiscent of America’s western pioneers. He had gray eyes and a fighting jaw, for he came of Andorra’s fighting stock. In fact I learned that Jaume had just come out victorious in a little one-man revolution of his own. The parish council ( Andorra is divided into six parishes, which are like six little nations in a world of their own) had levied an annual tax on Jaume’s hotel, apparently believing he was becoming too prosperous. Now, so far as anyone can remember, no money tax had ever been levied on a living Andorran. In more ancient days the people had paid tithings of lambs, chickens, cheeses, and crops to their Lord Bishops. But a revolution had abolished even those, and it was contrary to all custom and to all notions of justice that a tax should be levied on anyone now.

Jaume Bonell – Canillo Counciler

Jaume promptly closed his hotel. When Andorrans passed by that way, they might dine in the open or sleep under the skies if they liked. If the Councilors must impose taxes, let them impose the same on the hotel provided by Nature, Jaume suggested. But Nature pays no taxes. And neither does Jaume.

one of the official “notables”

Jaume was one of the “first men” in Andorra, one of the country’s official “notables,” which is an Andorran word just as written. He was doubly so, in fact, cause his lands and herds made him on of the richest. And in Andorra wealth counts, since a man without property has long had no say in the country’s affairs— a suffrage limitation the young Andorrans now seek to abolish. But primarily he derived his dignity from the fact that he was the head of a tribe, a patriarch who carried on the traditions and kept intact the possessions of his house, handing them down to those who should come after him. I had been sitting there a short time when Jaume laid down his paper and we began to talk. He took from the wall a faded old photograph to show me. It was the likeness of his father, a man with a grim fighting face, a grizzled old patriarch. He was clad in his robes of office as a member of the country’s Council General, or Parliament. He wore a flowing black gown and a black, cocked hat. Looking at the old man’s picture, gazing then at his grey-haired son who now carried on after him as the guardian of the family’s traditions and prestige, and as the custodian and accumulator of its wealth, I caught a glimpse of the bond of unity that in Andorra links the chief of a family with all the chiefs who have gone before.

Women silent until spoken to

Mother Bonell continued at her task of preparing the supper, paying no heed to our conversation. In Andorra, while men are conversing, women are silent until asked to speak. She had cheeks as red as the red of a sun-kissed apple. About her head was a gray scarf such as is worn by all Andorran women, except that the colour is most frequently black. We had trout for supper and grilled codfish, which in Andorra is a delicacy more relished than trout. We also had the gamy black meat of the izard, the Pyrenees chamois, which is caught high among crags, and delicious smoked ham, famous even beyond the country’s confines.

After supper we gathered around the kitchen fire once more— Jaume, his wife, his three sons, two or three “second-class” guests, and myself. They had thin, dark faces, black eyes and black hair, these mountaineers, and one had a drooping moustache. They talked to each other in Catalan, not animatedly but slowly, lapsing now and then into silence. Their voices were low and pleasant. The woman sat silent, unobserved, in a corner. The eldest son sat with his legs stretched out by the fire. He was six feet tall, lanky, self-contained, self-confident. When the old man spoke to him, his voice was soft. It was this son who would inherit all the land, inherit the role of preserving the family, inherit the title of chief. When the old man had gone, this son would rule, be the lawgiver to his brothers, to his wife, to his children, and to all who should live in the house.

A trail that had no wheels

From Soldeu next morning my trail picked out a crazy, winding way father into the heart of the country. Nothing so comparatively modern as a wheeled vehicle had penetrated where this trail led. It was for donkeys, mules, horses, sheep and men. I faced a wilderness of mountains looming in the deep distance. Now and then I passed donkeys or mules laden with enormous burdens, their drivers urging them on. Marvellous the loads these donkeys carried on their awkward wooden saddles underlaid with heavy felt. Sometimes the loads were twice as large as the donkey. The animal you could not see, but only little black feet moving under the load. And there was little that could not be loaded on their backs— chests of merchandise, cases of wine, of olive oil, of beer, furniture, sewing machines, wheelbarrows— even the logs and stones which houses are made. All the church bells that ring through the valleys from tall, campanile like towers were brought here in this manner, some of then centuries ago.

Main road Canillo – Encamp 1933

concessions formerly were granted to smugglers

Dark-faced, kindly men were the occasional drivers of donkeys who passed me. In other days they would have been smugglers of silks, of phosphorus and matches, of perfumery, of tobaccos. Then the most respectable families were the chief traffickers in contraband. It is even of record that the Council General granted a monopoly for the contrabanding of sulphur and matches. Contrabanding did not run counter to any law that had been handed down to the Andorrans, and they did not see why they should concern themselves about the laws of other countries. The smuggling across borders of sheep, horses, and mules is still practised, but the more picturesque phases of Andorran smuggling are done. The occasional driver, as he passes me, greeted me with a grave “Bon Dia,” or a “Passi-ho bé,” or a “Bon viatje’” or a “Buenos.” The Andorran has a great repertory of greetings and seems to make it a point never to repeat the one you have just given him. The men who greeted me were lithe and sinewy, built to pick their way over mountains with sure, unhesitating pace, like their donkeys. Their faces were weather-tanned and seamed by contract with wind and sun. But the features were regular, the eyes eager and glistering; the hair was often the gray of a patriarch. They were the gravest and most dignified of mortals, dignified and grave like their mountains. There was a time when Andorrans wore eye-filling costumes made up of white hose or leggings, short tight pants, large black sash, and black velvet coat, topped off by a long, pointed, and tasseled cap of flaming scarlet. The sash is still frequently seen and an occasional ancient yet clings to his native cap. But the rest of the costume has given way to corduroy suits fashioned by native tailors or wives. Even these suits have a distinctiveness expressive of the wearer’s personality.

I overtook a mountaineer plodding behind his donkey. He, too, had followed the honoured profession of smuggling. He became alert upon learning I was an American, and he asked many questions. Did they have mountains there as here? And forests? And donkeys and sheep? How about the cities? They were very large, some people tell, and had buildings as high as mountains. And those big steamships? He had never seen a steamship or even a tiny boat. Andorran waters are too turbulent for boats and the like. America had a President, he had heard. Well, Andorra had a President, too. And two princes, besides.

Traveling between mountain walls, following the stream, we finally reached Canillo, one of the six capitals of Andorra’s six parishes. Canillo was a black little town overhung by black mountains. It was a jumble of black roofs, of black stone buildings at crazy angles to each other, at crazy angles to its cobbled, narrow streets. Here is a cluster of houses perched on an uprising rock; there a house is set in a shelf against a black precipice. They reminded me of goats spurning the level spaces, getting themselves settled on rocky protuberances, on ledges, or wherever they can find a foothold. At the far end of the town, snug against the cliff, is the ocher, campanile like tower of the church, its height measured off by three poplars. The tower and poplars, the upward line of the cliff, the rocky pinnacles towering beyond, lend an aspiring Gothic note to the village. The clifflike black mountain back of the village serves as a mere pedestal to one of Andorra’s mightiest mountains, the Casamanya. The lower mountain is fringed with crags and looks down upon the town sullenly, menacingly. Its sides are seamed with bare, hard ridges of rock. Here and there it holds shallow patches of earth in which brush and some grass have taken root. Up and beyond you can see a field, an orchard, a stone barn with its cabin. Above this black footstool the Casamanya itself begins sloping upward toward an eventual altitude of nearly 9,000 feet. Arrived at the fringe of the village, I noticed that the monotony of the black houses with their quaint wooden balconies was relieved here and there by facades plastered and whitewashed, and that terraced gardens surrounded some of the houses. A donkey plodded up the street carrying an incredible load of short logs. Two black-garbed women came from the direction of the church, talking. Some hogs were basking in front of a doorway. And from a side street one heard the voices of children at play. In Canillo the children wear long dresses that tempt a smile. The boys who have graduated from dresses wear oversized blouses and pants made of the cast-off clothing of their elders. Women wash their clothes by the river at the edge of the town. Other black-garbed women come out of their doors to gossip, or carry loads on their heads through the streets. Here the most outstanding event of the day are the pealing of the Angelus at morning, at noon, and at night. Each week is marked off by the Mass at the church, the gathering in the cafe, the afternoon promenade. The outstanding events of the year are the church festival and the stock fair. In an Andorran village life moves like that.

Land more precious than gold

From Canillo I pressed onward alone through still narrowing mountain walls hemming in a valley that was seldom wider than a thousand feet. More often there was room for only a narrow strip of field to squeeze itself between the white foaming river and the mountain. High up on the sheer mountain sides other small fields were clamped. I wondered how the fields, or the farmer and his oxen whom I saw plowing them, could manage to stay put without sliding into the river. To an Andorran his little patches of earth are more valuable than gold. Only the direst need will induce him to part with one of them, and even then he or her heirs can always buy it back, although centuries may have elapsed since the sale. A man’s wealth consists first in his land, and then in his mules. His philosophy is that land never runs away, while gold does, and sometimes even the mules!

No people ever came nearer to the Biblical injunction of earning their bread by the sweat of their brow than do the Andorrans tilling their soil. The people know every foot their mountains, and wherever they have found a bit of earth through which a plow might be drawn, they have laboriously cleared it of rock and stone and made it ready for planting, be it ever so high and access ever so forbidding. Other land lies far beyond the peaks or on small plateaus that seem like the bottoms of craters around which sharp mountain summits stand guard. At the highest levels, away from the valleys, are summer villages, or cortals, and sometimes isolated barns and huts called bordes. These are covered with snow in winter, and deserted, bit thither the men move in the summer to remain until their hay and their buckwheat have been harvested, either to be stowed away in barns or to be transported down to the winter villages of the valleys. It is a curious sight to see a large load of green, dry hay moving over a trail far up a mountain as if it were travelling by itself. One has to be near and look sharply to observe the small black legs and the tiny dark face of the donkey. The load almost completely covers the animal, coming down its sides and reaching far above it. It is a familiar sight see husband and wife following behind it, each likewise bearing a burden of hay or grain on his or her back. After the grain reaches the barn it will be threshed by beaten with a club or switch, and thereafter winnowed by the wind. The women of Andorra work side by side with their men. That seems to be born of the necessity of wringing a livelihood from a soil that exacts every ounce of effort from those it sustains. But these women of Andorra who give of their brawn in equal measure with their menfolk are neither large, muscular, nor masculine. They are small and lithe, with fine, sharp features. Their bodies are of the compact, sinewy flesh of mountaineers and they are trained to their work from childhood. Wherever one sees the women of Andorra they are clothed in black. In the fields they wear long, black dresses that set off their slender forms, and black shawls and scarfs over their heads. On Sunday for church their costume is the same, but the black of their cloth seems newer. When it begins to appear worn and faded it will be relegated to workaday wear. But if the older women of Andorra wear black, that is not true of their younger daughters. Girlhood is the time of bright colours, of the dance, of the promenade on the days of the fiesta. And likewise of work. In Andorra it is not bright colours, prettiness, or coquetry that wins the man. It is a reputation for being a worker. And so the Andorra girl who would marry well sets out most industrious to acquire it. Although Andorran women work hard, they seem happy and contented. And they accept with extreme complacency the extremely minor role they play in the life of the family. Andorrans are still as far removed as they were in feudal days from any notion of equality between woman and man. Yet the men treat their women with consideration and they seem to make excellent companions.

The valley by which I left Canillo has narrowed into a gorge. The trail has climbed high and is now skirting precipices. The Valira has sunk so far that I can only hear its sound, not see it except when I crawl to the edge of the precipice and lie down to look over. Then it appears like a thin stream of frothing milk. Past wayside shrines I trudged, shrines where in other days smugglers threw coins invoking the protection of the Andorran patron saint, the Virgin of Meritxell. Past more black villages with smudgy faces like urchins; past solitary stone churches with high-reaching square towers—edifices reared so long ago that no one can say just when, and now all but abandoned. An then I came to the sanctuary of the Virgin of Meritxell herself, a white church building, and a near-by cluster of black houses, all on the steep slant of a lofty mountain. The Church of the Virgin is not like other Andorran churches, for the Andorrans, wishing to do something pretentious, took a note from the architecture of Spain. Legend says that centuries ago the statue of the Virgin was miraculously found buried in the ground under a rose bush which, although it was January and the ground was covered with snow, was in full bloom. The statue is still in the church. She is a serious-faced Virgin, wearing wooden shoes and peasant garb, and holding a child in her lap. The statue had probably been buried in the spot where it was found by the Christian Visigoths fleeing the Moors, about the tenth century. The Andorrans believe this Virgin preserved their independence through the centuries and have a deep devotion to her.

The last of the hermits

A lone hermit, last of numerous hermits who formerly guarded the small churches and chapels to be found all over Andorra, watches over his sanctuary. And so the trail meanders until finally it reaches Encamp, my goal for the day. Encamp is the metropolis of the valley down which I have been travelling; wherefore it has inns and stores and shops, such as those of the shoemaker, the blacksmith, and the carpenter, and more narrow, cobbled streets and dark houses. From this place there a wild valleys to be explored and a wilderness of high mountains which invite climbing. Also there is one of the cosiest inns in all Andorra. From Encamp my route took me to the capital city of Andorra-la-Vella, or Andorra-the-Ancient, where stands the statehouse, know as the House of the Valleys; then down into Spain and finally to the historic Spanish city of Seo de Urgel, which is also one of Andorra’s coprinces.

Encamp 1933

And now I was able to swing along a highway which had been built to Encamp from Urgel some years before. It was the first highway Andorra had ever known. Taking the road at Encamp, I found that it followed a brawling stream which cut a narrow way through overhanging rocks, beat itself into a fury at the foot of some cliff where it made a sharp turning, and, near the capital, reached a broadening valley which was really a juncture of this valley and another one which came down from the North. The two constitute Andorra’s principal valleys and give to it its official name of Andorra of the Valleys.

Entering Andorra-the-Ancient

The highway along which I travelled was still a mountain road winding through the canyon in curve after curve, hugging forested mountain sides, passing under precipices strewn with menacing bowlders, I rounded a last shoulder of mountain, crossed a rustic arched bridge spanning a cascading stream, entered a narrow street, and was at Les Escaldes. Several hotels line the principal street. One wonders why. The answer is that Les Escaldes has a warm spring which in the summer attracts visitors from neighbouring Spain. Leaving Les Escaldes, I walked along meadows, then over a large stone bridge spanning the now widened river. Ascending the thigh of a somber and scowling mountain, I reached Andorra-the-Ancient. The capital city rests soberly, sedately against the lowermost slopes of its mountain. A diminutive seat of national government it is, with its meek-looking Capitol building from which a feudal State is ruled in an entirely feudal manner. The town’s public square is the Plaça del Principe Benlloch, named for an episcopal coprince of other days and the only public square in Andorra having a name. There are various shops, a church with a squat, square tower of stone, a constant movement of laden donkeys and mules. It is like other Andorran towns in that respect. But now there are more wheeled vehicles, ox-drawn carts, camions loaded down with trailing logs dragged laboriously from nearby forests, and those curious little canvas-topped, two-wheeled carts called tartanas

A narrow, shadowed alley leads away from the plaza to the Capitol building, standing in an inclosed space on the outskirts of the town. No country ever had a more self-effacing capitol than Andorra’s Casa del Valls “House of the Valleys,” as it is called. But most likely none ever had a capitol more useful. To shelter the archives and to provide a gathering place for the Council General are but the beginnings of the purpose it serves. Everything of consequence to the State happens there and eventually everyone goes there. A portal composed of massive, feudal-looking doors affords entrance to the inclosure. It is two and one-half stories high, with a plain front, low gable roof running lengthwise to its façade, and with slight pattern in the placing of its windows. In the centre is an arched, double-doored portal, neatly tailored, lending the building a touch of distinction. A tiny beehive turret projects from a forward corner near the top. A small square tower, with a pointed, four-sided bonnet, rises from the diagonally opposite corner at the rear. Its tip is not quite so high as the tips of some sharp rocks which rise just behind the building. The House, in fact, backs away into these rocks, which seem to have gone into huddle and to be trying to keep it from falling over the cliff.

Andorra La Vella 1933 – Les Escaldes in back ground

When the Parliament meets, an official called the nunci hangs the Andorran flag over the portal. the 24 members of the Council have come over the mountain trails afoot or on donkeys. They always bring an animal when they can because the unwritten law of the land. besides allowing them a salary which is equivalent to nearly a dollar a year, provides them with free entertainment for themselves and their beasts.

The original “dollar-a-year” men

The animals usually are laden with buckwheat or tobacco or similar products, and on the return will be weighted down with some other articles. The Councillors and the “President of the Republic,” having tethered their beasts in the plaza or elsewhere, having stood chatting there with each other or gathered in the cafe, repair at the stroke of a bell to the House of the Valleys. Doors close behind them and they may not leave until all their business is concluded. Before the members of the Council begin their session, they vest themselves in their long black gowns and picturesque blac k hats. They must always wear black ties. A Councilor appearing at a session without a black tie is first fined and then sent out to get one. The Councilors being properly garbed, an extremely important formality has to be attended to before they get down to business. The members of the “President’s” cabinet, of whom there is one from each of the country’s six parishes, must bring with them their keys to the huge, iron-bound oaken chest that contains the archives and other state papers. Until all the six keys have been brought the chest cannot be opened. For the first time in its more than six centuries Andorra officially received in May, 1933, a representative of the United States, who visited the country to present a letter from President Roosevelt acknowledging a letter addressed to him on the occasion of his inauguration. The letter from President Roosevelt was deposited with the tiny State’s archives in this historic chest.

Andorra’s “Magna Charta”

No one knows just how or when Andorra had its origin, but most likely it is the last survivor of the independent States set up by Charlemagne when he established the Spanish March, that series of buffer States intended to ward off the Moors, who were overrunning Spain and knocking at the gates of the rest of Europe. However that may be, Andorra tradition claims Charlemagne as the father of the country, while there still exists a copy of the charter of liberty said to have been granted to Andorra by Louis the Pious, the Debonair, Charlemagne’s son. This charter, whose authenticity is improbable, is the only bit of documentary evidence offered to account for the existence of Andorra between those early days and 1278. In that year two lords who had been warring over Andorra signed an agreement, still in existence, by which they were to rule over the country as coprinces, each having exactly as much power in the land as the other. One of these caprices was the Count of Foix, a Frenchman, while the other was the Bishop of Urgel, a Catalan owning allegiance to Pedro of Aragón. The Bishop of Urgel continues as caprice of Andorra to this day. The titles of the Count of Foix underwent many vicissitudes, however, and were eventually acquired by the Kings of France. Later when the French revolutionists abolished all titles, they renounced claim to Andorra. It was in 1806, under Napoleon 1, that the Andorrans themselves petitioned the French sovereign to resume his ancient title to Andorra, fearing aggressions on the part of Spain and desiring the protection of the French chief of state. Napoleon consented, and that is how the French ruler is also today a caprice of Andorra. The relationship of the French President to their country, the Andorrans hold, is a purely personal one and not in the name of the French Government. Andorra is commonly referred to as a republic and sometimes as a principality. Strictly speaking, it is neither one nor the other, nor is either of the sovereigns a prince, although they are called princes and they acknowledge the title. The charter of 1278, called the Pariatjes (Paréages), calls them “lords,” which approximates their real status. Although Andorra has a kind of parliament, its members are not elected by the people, but by the heads of families, who must live in their own houses and be owners of land. Failing one or the other condition, they may neither vote nor holt office. The landed head of a family who lives in the house of his father also is ineligible. The Parliament, moreover, represents the land, not the people, a condition which is also in accordance with feudal custom. It originally bore title of Council of the Land.

Thus Andorra can hardly be called a republic. With respect to its internal government it has been an aristocracy, perhaps the most exclusive in Europe. In relationships to sovereign lands it is a monarchy. It is precisely this twofold character which is ascribed to it by the Politer, an ancient digest of laws and customs, which is accepted by the people as an authentic statement of Andorra’s political status.

Andorra has changed somewhat since that September day when I first found my way over its mountains through a storm. Soon thereafter the construction of its first highway was begun.

The country, having closer contacts with the outer world, is bound to change. These contacts will undoubtedly affect its customs, its laws, and its institutions, as well as the character and activity of some of its towns. But I think no single highway will ever separate Andorra from its unique beauty and charm.

By Lawrence A. Fernsworth

First Published;

The National Geographic Magazine

Vol. LXIV, N0.4 – Washington – October 1933