When I was a kid and I used to go to Andorra once or twice a year, there was always one landmark that stood out on the road to Andorra-la-Vella. See, that road, following the Gran Valira river crosses a few towns but none of them are aesthetically or even historically interesting (most of them sprung out from small hamlets in the 60’s or 70’s). Yet, there was that church, just before entering Canillo, but almost in the middle of nowhere and definitely not in a village, that stood there, on the side of the road. It was obviously very old, seemed to have survived everything (what exactly? I had no idea, but at least it must have survived the village that must have surrounded it at some point). And it must have been important for Andorra as it was pictured in the encyclopedia my parents owned in the Andorra entry. On the one hand, I felt that it was important, but on the other hand, it was so small, it seemed almost abandoned, as if it had been left on the side of the road by somebody.
I never really knew what to make of it, so this year, one of my goals upon returning to Andorra after that 15 years hiatus was to stop by it, and try to learn more about it.
Remember how I told you that with this spike of population and income Andorra seems as if it has been… not exactly gentrified (although there is a little bit of that too), but renovated? Yes, that’s the feeling I had a hard time to explain in my previous post, the whole country feels renovated. Well, this is exactly what happened to the Sant Juan de Caselles Church (this is its name).
Well, I’m not sure if it has actually been renovated in the traditional meaning (it must have been at some point) but the area now has a parking lot, grass, even a few houses, and the church doesn’t feel like it’s lost and abandoned anymore (give it a few years and the town of Canillo will reach the church). There’s even a motorcycle museum next to it!
I’d like to tell you about Sant Joan de Caselles‘ history, but truth is I don’t know much about it except from the fact that it was mostly built in the 11th and 12th Century. Yes, you read me right, it’s about a thousand years old, although some parts are more recent, from the 16th and 17th Centuries, particularly the archway.
The church is typical Romanesque from the area (I call it “Catalonia Romanesque” as you’ll find many churches in that style all over Catalonia, especially in the mountains) and the bell-tower is supposedly typical Lombard style, a style that is also pretty common in the area, especially in Andorra. However, I have no idea why this style is common there, so far from Lombardy. Any art historian among you?
Apparently, the official site tells us that there are a bunch of interesting things inside too, but it was closed, and I have no idea of when it is open. Seeing how it took me 38 years to stop by it, I have no idea when I’ll get the chance to check its interior. Well, we never know what could happen next, right?