Erik Nitsche: Shrine of the Virgin of Meritxell
Artist: Erik Nitsche
Andorra is a small state of only 191 square miles, high in the Eastern Pyrenees between France and Spain. It is under the joint suzerainty of the President of France and the Bishop of Urgel (Spain). The high mountain valleys are poor in soil, but they support large flocks of sheep. More than 500,000 annual visitors support a growing tourist trade. Because of its close proximity to both France and Spain, the architecture in Andorra naturally reflects both countries' influences. Well known architect Ricard Bofill designed the National Shrine of the Virgin of Meritxell, the exterior of which is featured in this artwork. To the Andorrans, the sanctuary of Meritxell, the Blessed Virgin, is the ultimate symbol of religiousness. She was declared Patroness of the Principality in 1873. In 1972, during the night of September 8 -- the National Day of Andorra -- the old sanctuary caught fire and was razed to the ground, destroying with it the image of the Virgin. Next to these burnt out ruins, Bofill's new sanctuary was inaugurated on September 8, 1976. It was built with modern conceptions but it still relies on romantic traditions to give it the image of a shrine worthy of the Virigin of Meritxell; it is also one of the most significant buildings in Andorra today.
This painting was originally published on the Fleetwood® First Day Cover for the Spanish Andorra Europa 1987 Modern Art - Architecture stamp issued May 15, 1987.
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