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Origins of the Sanctuary

Iglesia ViejaThe origin of the Sanctuary of Meritxell, as it happens with many other sanctuaries does not have written documentation with specific and accurate information that allows a true reconstruction of the beginning. However, there is an evidence of the oral tradition that has passed from parents to children and that it has came to us as a beautiful legend.  Just as it happens with most popular stories, this one includes a different touch depending who tells the story, but in essence, the origins of the sanctuary were pretty much as it follows…

“… from the village of Meritxell, in the morning of January 6th, the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (‘Three Kings day’ or ‘the coming of the Magi), a shepherd went to Canillo to attend the mass of such an important day.  When passing by the spot in which today we can find the sanctuary, a bloomed rose bush with green leaves caught his attention. It was obviously a strange sight. Everything was covered by snow and the aspect of the rose bush was spring like. When he approached the bush, he was surprised when he realized that on its feet there was a beautiful carving of Our Lady. With surprise and joy he went to Canillo to announce the miracle to the parish priest and the rest of its inhabitants. Once the mass had finished, everyone went in procession towards Meritxell. They picked up the carved image and took it to Canillo. They placed it in the high altar of the church and promise of making an altarpiece in her honor.

Imagen romanica siglo XIIThe following morning, when entering the church, they realized that the image was not in the place where they placed it the day before and that it had disappeared. Everyone was perplexed because the doors of the church had remained locked during the night. They thought that it was a robbery. Nevertheless, a traveler who came from Andorra and that did not know what had happened the previous day, said that when he passed by Meritxell he had seen an image of Saint Mary on the feet of a bloomed rose bush. They came to the conclusion that the virgin preferred to be venerated in the village of Encamp. Therefore, the inhabitants of this town went in procession to pick up the image, placing it in the high altar of the parochial church.  On the following day and just as it had happened in Canillo, the image had disappeared in similar circumstances.  They returned to Meritxell and they found the image next to the rose bush.  A small piece of land was completely free of the snow that had fallen the previous night.

The will of Our Lady was clear. Due to that, the inhabitants of Canillo and Encamp built a chapel in that place so she would be venerated in that very same place by the faithful.”