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Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 42.4942 N 1.4975 E
No:494        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Churches
Values:Art, Architecture, History
Rank:4
Address:Europe, Andorra, Andorra la Vella, some 2.5 km south-west from the centre of Andorra la Vella in Sant Coloma village, at the right bank of Valira River
Name in Catalan:Santa Coloma d'Andorra
Architectural style:pre-Romanesque, Lombardy Romanesque
Year of construction:in the time period between the 8th and early 9th centuries
Branch of Christianity:Catholics
Height:17.67 m
Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra
Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra / Ferran Llorens, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Andorra is rich with medieval churches and the oldest one is Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra which, most likely, was built sometimes between the 8th and 9th centuries.

Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra with Andorra la Vella in the background
Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra with Andorra la Vella in the background / Ferran Llorens, , CC BY-SA 2.0

History

Andorra historically, for more than one millenia has been a small rural and montane state. In medieval times it has been an important centre of commerce. Gem of Andorran culture is its 30 pre-Romanesque and Romanesque churches - all of them small rural churches, often containing major art values.

It is not known with certainty when the oldest of these churches - Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra - was built, but most likely it took place in the time period between the 8th and 9th centuries. For the first time this church was mentioned in written sources in 1040.

Initially there was built a simple, square building with apse. It was built from local stone and covered with slate roof on wooden frame.

Later, in the 12th century at the southern wall near the apse was built an impressive bell tower. This structure is 17.67 m tall and is a good representative of Lombardy Romanesque style, e.g. with Italian influence. Base of tower is circular but with each of the four floors the shape is changing. In each floor there are windows - in the first floor two, and in other floors - four, adorned with fine Lombard arches. Under the roof there are sculptures of two human heads. In the upper floor are seen also remains of medieval murals.

Sometimes in the time period between the 16th and 18th centuries at the southern wall was added also a porch.

Since 1999 this church together with other nearby cultural landmarks is on the waiting list (Tentative List) for UNESCO World Heritage status.

The small, homely church is rather popular visitor attraction. Every year at the end of August there are held festivities.

Painting of Agnus Dei in Santa Coloma church, Andorra
Painting of Agnus Dei in Santa Coloma church / Ferran Llorens, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Murals

In the 12th century interior of the church was adorned with fine murals turning the church of Santa Coloma into one of the most beautiful ones in Andorra. Paintings depicted the apocalyptic vision: Christ surrounded by tetramorph and apostles - all humans with narrow shoulders, long necks, small heads and large eyes. Murals were created by Master of Sant Coloma - important artist who has created also murals in the Church of Sant Romà de les Bons.

In the 20th century the condition of murals deteriorated and in 1932 Bishop of Urgell sold them to an art dealer in Barcelona. Murals were removed from the church in 1933. Later these were acquired by a French collector who sold them to German Baron von Dorn. He was of Jewish origin and thus, as Nazists came at power, his art collections were confiscated and Andorrese murals were placed in one of State Museums in Berlin.

These art values were in Germany until 2007 when they were returned to Andorra, to Government Exhibition Hall. State of Andorra paid for this 4 million EUR and the price includes restoration which was done in Germany.

But, happily, not all murals were brought away. During the restoration in 1934, behind the retable (altar) was found a mural which shows Agnus Dei flanked by two angels as well as decorative elements around the arch.

Virgin of Remediation in Santa Coloma church, Andorra
Virgin of Remediation in Santa Coloma church / Enric Fontvila, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Other art values

In the church is located wooden polychrome sculpture of the Virgin of Remediation from the 13th century. Virgin of Remediation is a title of Virgin Mary which is popular in Iberian Peninsula and Latin America.

In the church is also located a fine retable in Baroque style from 1741.

Map

See Church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra on the map of Andorra!

 

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