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The old church

There is not much information regarding the old church. However, experts are quite sure of the period when the Romanesque image of Saint Mary of Meritxell was carved (12th century). Based on this, the experts estimate that the primitive chapel belonged to the same period or even older. This would not be strange, since it has happened in other sanctuaries. The construction of the church took place before placing the image of the Virgin.

Vista antiguo santuarioEntrada antigua iglesia

 

This Romanesque construction was transformed during the Baroque period. It was quite modest temple of a single nave, with a semicircular apse. Only the west wall of the Romanesque building has been preserved and it was integrated within the Baroque building. An archeological dig took place in 1991 that showed those Romanesque elements that had been integrated in the Baroque church.

Future excavations will be necessary to determine the exact time when that chapel was erected. However, with information that we have now, it can be confirmed that Meritxell was the first location in Andorra where an image of the Virgin was venerated and the first place where a church was erected to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Virgin of Meritxell carving was kept in this old church until 1972, when during the night between September 8th and September 9th, a fire destroyed the sanctuary (the one that we know as 'the old sanctuary').

The building that had practically been devastated by the fire was partially reconstructed. Nowadays is used as an exhibition space and is currently featuring 'Meritxell Memory'  a retrospective exhibit that reflects through pictures, documents and objects the history of the cult to the patron Saint of Andorra.
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