HISTORY
Not much is known of Andorra’s history prior to Charlemagne (742–814), who is credited for wresting the region from the Muslims in 803. Charlemagne, king of the Franks (a Germanic tribe) and the first Holy Roman emperor, created the March states, also known as Marca Hispanica (“Spanish Mark” or “March”), as barriers against the advance of the Moors toward the French mainland. Of these Andorra is the only surviving independent nation. Charlemagne promised to reward the people of Andorra with a charter if they helped him in his fight against the Muslim Moors.
Fulfilling the promise made by Charlemagne to the people of Andorra, his son Louis the Pious (778–840) granted a charter of liberty to the Andorrans in the early 800s. In 843 Charles the Bald (840–77?) also known as Charles II, son of Louis the Pious, granted the lordship of Andorra to Sunifred (834–48), the Count of Urgell (a Spanish town, also known as Urgel). By the Act of Consecration, which dates back to 860, all the towns of Andorra came under the jurisdiction of the count. Later one of the descendants of Sunifred Ermengol IV (1052–92) passed the lordship of Andorran townships to the Diocese of Urgell, which was headed by the bishop of Urgell. Many neighboring lords wanted to establish their rule in Andorra. The bishop of Urgell sought and secured protection against probable hostilities from a Spanish nobleman the lord of Caboet. Subsequently the French count of Foix (the county of Foix is located in the modern French département of Ariège) became the heir apparent to the property of the lord of Caboet, after marrying his daughter. However the Count of Foix began interfering in the administration of Andorra, which was legally still under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Urgell. This led to constant conflict over ownership issues, which were resolved only after the Acts of Joint Overlordship, known as the Pareatges, or Paretages (meaning “agreements signed between two parties”). These were signed between the count of Foix and the bishop of Urgell in 1278 and 1288, giving joint ownership and right of governance to both warring claimants.
For the next three centuries French and Spanish rulers exercised control over Andorra at different times. However when the French reclaimed the region from Spanish control in 1607, under the leadership of the French monarch King Henry IV, he signed a proclamation according to which the bishop of Urgell and the French king were declared the joint rulers of Andorra.
After the French Revolution (1789–99), in a desire to eliminate all signs of absolute monarchy, the French government abolished the right of the head of state of France to exercise joint ownership of Andorra, along with feudal rights to the region. However at the behest of the people of Andorra, who feared a Spanish invasion in the absence of French rule, Napoleon reinstated the feudal rights as well as joint rule by France in 1806.
During the two world wars Andorra was neutral and thus escaped much of the brutality and destruction. However in 1933 Andorra was taken over by a Russian explorer Boris Skossyreff (1898–?), who declared war on the bishop of Urgell, with the support of some Andorrans, and declared himself King Boris I, the new king of Andorra. But his reign, which began on July 6, 1933, was brought to an end on July 14, 1933, by French military forces that reclaimed the region and restored peace in Andorra.
The feudal system in Andorra was modified in 1993 when the titular heads of state were retained, but the government was transformed into a parliamentary democracy. Andorra became a member of the United Nations in 1993 and a member of the Council of Europe in 1994.

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
The tiny state of Andorra is situated on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees. It is just 16 miles from north to south and 20 miles from east to west. It shares its 78-mile border with France and Spain. Andorra la Vella, the capital, is situated in the southwest of the country at the confluence of the Gran Valira, the Valira del Oriente, and the Valira del Norte Rivers. Most of Andorra’s 40 or so towns and hamlets—some with fewer than 100 people—are situated in a group of mountain valleys whose streams join to form the Gran Valira, the country’s main river. The principality’s highest point is Pic de Coma Pedrosa (6,562 feet), on the Spanish border in northwestern Andorra.
Andorra enjoys a temperate climate, with snowy winters and warm summers. The country’s mountain peaks often remain snowcapped until July.

ECONOMY
Tourism generates the economy and constitutes more than 80 percent of Andorra’s gross domestic product (GDP). The duty-free policies of Andorra also boosts its tourism industry. The banking sector of Andorra, with its “tax haven” status (there is no income tax levied in the country), also contributes significantly to the economy. Little more than 2 percent of the land is arable, and agricultural production is limited to tobacco. This means that most food items must be imported.
Among the main items manufactured are cigarettes, cigars, and furniture. Timber, mineral water, lead, hydroelectric power, and iron ore are some of the other important mineral and natural resources found in Andorra. Due to lower taxes on imported items these goods are available at cheaper prices than in neighboring countries. Andorra is not a full member of the European Union (EU) but enjoys a privileged relationship with that organization. While trading in manufactured items Andorra is considered a member of the EU, but it enjoys nonEU status in trade related to agricultural products. CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE Andorra’s population was around 6,000 until the 1950s. The population has increased but is still sparse compared to other countries. Only a quarter of the population—almost two-thirds of whom live in the capital of Andorra la Vella—are Andorran nationals. The remainder are primarily Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Catholicism is widely practiced here.
Catalan (Català), a Romance language related to Provençal, also spoken in parts of Spain, Italy, and France, is the official language of Andorra. In addition to Catalan, Andorrans commonly converse in Spanish and French.
The culture of Andorra is essentially Catalan. La sardana is a traditional Catalan dance in which performers hold hands while dancing, reminding many of similar dances in ancient Greece. Others insist that la sardana was not introduced until the 15th-century Catalan occupation of Sardinia, hence the name. Whatever its origins, la sardana emerged during the Renaixença (the 19th-century Catalan renaissance). Andorrans are extremely fond of all varieties of music and, though very small, the country has a chamber orchestra. Every September a Festival of Classic Music is held. An annual international jazz festival, held every July in the parish of EscaldesEngordany, is the most important musical event in Andorra and attracts renowned local performers as well as international stars like B. B. King and Miles Davis.

CUISINE
Andorran cuisine is mainly Catalan, which is rich in taste and diversity, with strong French and Italian influences, such as the use of mushrooms and snails. Sauces are generally served with meat and fish. Pasta is also common. Local dishes include cunillo (rabbit cooked in tomato sauce), xai (roast lamb), trinxat (bacon, potatoes, and cabbage), and escudella (a stew of chicken, sausage, and meatballs). Whole vegetables and especially tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine), onions, and peppers are very popular. Dried beans and rice form the base for cooking during the winter. Pork is the meat used in most daily meals; lamb is usually reserved for special occasions. Herbs and spices are an integral part of Andorran cooking, with mint, anise, rosemary, saffron, cinnamon, parsley, and basil considered indispensable.
French desserts are very popular and are savored with dry fruits such as nuts, almonds, and figs. Fresh fruits such as red currants, raspberries, blackberries, oranges, and lemons are eaten abundantly. These are mainly found in the province of Lleida. Butter from the towns of La Seu d’Urgell, Sort, and Puigcerda in the Pyrenees of Catalunya is famous. A popular Andorran appetizer is pa amb tomaquet (tomato toast)—toast scraped with a garlic clove, rubbed with half a tomato, sprinkled with olive oil, and topped with sea salt. It is sometimes embellished with ham or cheese. When served in restaurants it is usually offered without charge. This is also the traditional workers’ breakfast.

BIRTH
Andorrans are primarily Roman Catholic. When a child is born it is baptized in the local church. Baptism is one of the seven sacraments, or essential transformative rituals, of the Catholic Church. At the time of baptism at infancy, parents choose two or three adults who will be the godparents of the child and who will take care of it, along with the biological parents, and encourage it to follow the path of Christianity. Traditionally for a male child, there are two male and one female godparent, while for a girl it is the reverse.
Before the actual ritual the priest confirms that the parents and godparents will bring up their child as a devout Catholic. The priest calls out the name of the child while tracing the Sign of the Cross on the child’s forehead. After reading a short passage from the Bible, the priest prays for the child, his parents, and godparents. Then with holy oil he anoints the child and later brings the child near the altar and sprinkles water three times over the child’s head.

COMING OF AGE
When an Andorran reaches puberty he or she becomes a member of the local church and has to be confirmed. Confirmation is performed by a bishop, who represents the church and confirms people by laying his hands on their heads and praying for them. Before people are confirmed they usually go to confirmation classes, where they are taught about the important beliefs and practices of Christians.
The actual ritual of the sacrament of confirmation takes place during the Mass. After the priest completes the sermon he reads aloud the names of all those individuals who will be confirmed. Each individual whose name has been called goes up to the bishop. After he or she asserts a total faith in Jesus and promises to reject evil completely, the bishop lays his hands on the candidate. According to Catholic belief the hand symbolizes the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. Then the bishop calls out the confirmation name of the candidate, which can be the individual’s given name or the name of a saint. Using the oil of chrism the bishop makes the Sign of the Cross on the candidate’s forehead, thereby indicating that the candidate is now a child of God.

MARRIAGE
In Andorra the permissible age for marriage is 16. Andorrans may choose whether to get married in a civil ceremony or in a church. Civil marriages are conducted by the mayor in the town hall and in the presence of at least two witnesses. Andorrans who get married in a religious ceremony generally do so in the churches in which they are members. The marriage service is led by a priest who reads from the Bible. The bride, who wears a white wedding gown and a veil, is ushered into the church by her father. Only close relatives and friends attend the service, lending it an intimate tone. The bride also has bridesmaids, who are generally her sisters, cousins, or friends. The father of the bride “hands over” his daughter to her future husband. The bride and groom exchange rings as a symbol of their marriage and commitment and sign a church register along with the witnesses. The priest and family members then bless the couple. Songs are sung, and sacred passages on love and marriage are read. After the marriage service a reception is held where there is a feast organized for the guests. Friends and family members of the couple raise a toast and say a few lines in honor of the newly married couple. Gifts are generally given to the newlyweds.

DEATH
According to the Christian Bible all devout Christians will find a place in the glory of heaven after they die. To prepare for the passage the dead body is cleaned, dressed, and placed in a coffin. Then the coffin is taken to the church, where a service is held in the deceased’s honor. Family and friends read passages from the Bible at the funeral. The body is buried in the local cemetery, and flowers are placed at the gravesite.