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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 7, pp4-8 (Mar 1978).

Copyright notice

A Famous Andorran

By Jean Bacquer

Guillem de Areny y de Plandolit, Sindic of the Andorran Valleys, author of the "Reform Programme" of 1886

In the little known history of the Co-Principality of Andorra, founded, it is said, in the year 802 by Louis le Debonnaire, son of the great Emperor Charlemagne, a famous family emerges as early as the year 931. The consecration act of the Church Saint Genis de l'Atmetlla del Valles by the bishop Tenderic (4th July 931) is a document kept at the record office of the Aragon court in Barcelona. In it we find reference of the name Plandolit for the first time. It is supposed to come from the "Domus" (fortified house) of Arnaldi Miron of Plandaulito (in Catalan Arnau Mir de Plandolit). The feudal lord lived in this house.

We find this name again in the act of the second official consecration of that religious building by Olaguer, Archbishop of Tarragone and Bishop of Barcelona, Abbé of Sant Uugat (24th Sept. 1123). This document, where the signature "Plandolit" appears as a signature of a witness of the consecration, is kept at the Rectory of Barcelona (Vol. 7 Folio 223). The stately house of the Plandolit family still exists in the village of Atmetlla des Valles. Although it does not belong to the family any longer the family emblem can be seen above the front door - an armed griffon on gold background. The descendants of this house, constantly at the service of their King and country, were given the title of "honorable" as it is proved by an authentic donation act by Peter de Plandolit in favour of his son Bernard. This act was registered by the venerable Martin Carova, public solicitor, on the 21st November 1201. This title was, in those days, given to Catalan Noblemen, and Councillors of Barcelona. The name of this family can be found afterwards in many official acts signed throughout the centuries by several generations of Plandolit. It appears in Andorra on the 24th March, 1821 when Josep de Plandolit de Targarona y Pons married Maria-Rosa d'Areny de Senaller y Jordana, "pubilla" (rich heiress) of the house "Don Guillem" d'Ordino and of the noble family Senaller del Pujol y Carlania de Monrros.

It is then that the descendants of this marriage, according to the agreement of the marriage settlement, took the name "Areny-Plandolit". At Seo de Urgel on the 19th February, 1822 was born their son Guillem de Areny y de Plandolit. A few months later, on the 20th September, l822, his mother died. She was buried in the family vault in the church of the Pietat at la Séo. After this event Josep de Plandolit came to Andorra and settled at Ordino. Two years after his re-marriage to an Andorran "pubilla" he was elected "Sindic" - Attorney General of the Andorran Valleys, by an unanimous vote of the members of the Land Council which managed the country's local affairs. We have discovered an Andorran passport dated 30th May, 1832 issued by him - this document is written in the Castillian tongue. We also know that in January 1834 he was living at Ordino and that he was suffering from the "stone Disease". In January 1835, aged 49, he was still at Ordino where he lived with his sister in law, Maria de Senaller y Jordana and his son Guillem. On the 8th September, 1838 he received a letter from the Count of Spain with an order for a load of iron from the ironworks he possessed. He was also asked to pursue the deserters from the Carlist Army and was threatened that if he did not do so troops would be sent to the country. His health was not standing up well to the hard Andorran winter and he died in his house at Ordino on the 17th July, 1843, aged 55, from a violent attack of his disease which lasted nine hours.

His only son was the Noble Don Guillem (the 12th to bear the christian name) d'Areny y Plandolit and we know that he was born at La Séo d'Urgel on the 19th February, 1822. He inherited the title of Baron de Senaller and on the 18th September, 1851 he became the Baron de Gramenet, a title given to him by Isabelle II, Queen of Spain. He was to play, in the long history of Andorra, a very important role. After he became Sindic - Attorney General of the Valleys - he issued in 1866 the Reformation Programme which ended a political situation inherited from the Actes de Paréages of the 8th September, 1278, and promoted the Andorran middle aged institutions to modern ideas. Many of the dispositions contained in the Reformation Programme are still in force today. The M. Illustre General Council of the Andorran Valleys, created by this Bill, celebrated this centenary on the 28th January, 1966 by building in the gardens surrounding the House of the Valleys, a monument commemorative of this event. The monument, the work the Andorran sculptor Villadomat, shows the country's gratitude to the promotor of a new political era.

The wealth of the family was then considerable. Referring to the book by Castillon d'Aspet, "History of Ax and of the Valley of Andorra", published in 1851 at Toulouse, we can read on page 147

"1. That half the tithe of the six parishes forming the Valley of Andorra is to go to the Bishop of Urgel.

2. That the other half (except for the town of Andorra) is to go to the Church chapter - the cathedral that the Moors had ruined and this Co-Prince had re-built.

3. Lastly, that the other half of the tithe from the town of Andorra belongs to the family of Don Ramon Plandolit, one of the important inhabitants who had been of great help to the French army.

That, following these conventions, the Bishop and the Chapter of Urgel, as well as Don Guillem Plandolit, now one of the richest landlords of Andorra and heir of the Carlovingien rights quoted above, receive every year their respective parts of the tithe."

The possessor of a lot of land in Andorra, Spain and France, and the owner of prosperous ironworks processing the iron ore which is plentiful in Andorra, Don Guillem de Areny y de Plandolit, Baron de Senaller y Gramenet had gathered the heritages from the Houses Areny, Senaller and Plandolit. He was at the top of an enormous fortune which, expressed in a popular manner, could be seen since he could be transported from Barcelona to Andorra in several stages, stopping only in estates that belonged to him. He was Officer of the Lêgion d'Honneur in France and Commander of the Royal Order of Isabelle the Catholic in Spain. From his mandate at the House of the Valleys an Andorran passport, entirely written in Catalan and dated 25th November, 1866, has been seen.

On the 24th October, 1870 a noviciate of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits) settled in the house Don Guillem possessed on the Square of Andorra la Vieja (now called the Square of Prince Benlloch). According to what is said on page 78 of the book by Lluis Ignasi Fiter "Historia i Novena de Nostra Senyora de Meritxell" he generously offered this building to poor religious men.

Don Guillem had married, for the first time on the 2nd October, 1841, Maria Dolors de Parelia de Fivailer y de Girona. The ceremony had been celebrated in the private chapel of the House "Don Guillem" d'Ordino by his uncle, the Reverend Llorens de Plandolit, with special permission from the Rector of Ordino. From this marriage seven children were born:- Josep, Manuel, Maria-Pilar, Guillem, Lluis, Maria-Dolors and Rosa. Their mother met a tragic end on the evening of 19th June, 1855. The newspaper "El Diario de Barcelona" of 20th June relates the following facts:-

"Don Guillem and his wife usually lived at La Séo d'Urgel and in Andorra, but during the season they very often went to Barcelona and frequently to the "Teatro del Liceo". A colonel from the Spanish army, Bias de Durana, had noticed the beauty of the Baroness and had fallen deeply in love with her. His impetuous temperament led him to make advances to her - which she had indignantly refused, Don Guiliem had been most annoyed by this incident, so he complained to the Capitaine Général de Catalogne who immediately transferred Bias de Durana to Lugo, Galicia, Before joining his new post at Lugo, Bias de Durana swore to be avenged on the Baroness, and in the evening of the 19th June, 1855, as she was walking with her husband in the Rue de l'Union towards the Teatro del Liceo, Bias de Durana rushed out and stabbed her thirteen times with a dagger. She died immediately. Her aggressor surrendered to the Authorities. He was arrested, judged and condemned to the capital punishment. This execution was to be done by égarote vilé, an instrument that breaks the cervical vertebrae by pressure. The family and friends of Bias de Durana tried everything they could to obtain his grace. Their approaches were blocked by his obsession of being shot, a favour reserved to his military status. This favour was rejected and so the day before the execution he committed suicide in his cell. On the next day, the day of the execution, the crowd had gathered in front of the prison. After a long and fruitless waiting their anger was flaring, since they were assuming that, in view of his rank, the murderer was going to escape his fate. To avoid a riot, the Authorities had to ask for the corpse to be brought to the scaffold to do justice. It was the first time a dead man had been executed!

Don Guillem married a second time on the 22nd September, 1855 to Carolina de Plandolit y Pelati at Toulouse. Because of their family bonds, a dispensation was granted by Rome dated 3rd September, 1855. By this marriage ten children were born:- Joan, Guillem, Josefa, Maria-Assumpta, Joaquim, Pere, Carlos, Maria-Concepcio, Maria-Rosa and Pau-Xavier. Guilliem de Areny y de Plandolit died in Toulouse on the 23rd February, 1876 at the age of 54. On the 12th August, 1876 his body was transported to Andorra to be buried in the family crypt in the chapel Sant Guillem in the parish church of Ordino. As there were no roads in Andorra, his body was carried pick-a-back across the mountains from the French frontier to Ordino, where he rests among the mountain people, in the midst of those high valleys he had so much loved and honoured.

The "peer" house of the family still exists in Ordino as it could be seen then by the rare visitors who adventured in that country, so remote and isolated from the Europe of the nineteenth century. Its magnificent iron balconies, wrought in the Andorran ironworks of the family by using charcoal, can still be admired.

They carry the family Coat of Arms at the very entrance of the little village of Ordino, which is the one in the Valleys which has preserved best its ancestral character. A covered porch leads to a flower garden, then to a big room where portraits hang on the walls between the suits of armour. The portraits are of ancestors who have marked so many events in history of Andorra. Then there is the library where so many works relate the deeds achieved by the family; lastly, to the chapel where Don Guillem himself was married for the first time. It is in this house that the statesman perfected his Reformation act adopted by the Valleys of Andorra, after the approbation of the French and Episcopal Co-Princes. Its text was published on the 31st May, 1866 in a publication issued by the printing firm of José Maria Riu at La Séo d'Urgel and was entitled "Plan de Reforma Adoptat en las Valls de Andorra". "We, D.D. Jose Caixal y Estrade in the trust of God and the Apostolic Holy See, the Bishop of Urgel, apostolic delegate of the Abbey of Gerri..... sovereign Prince of the Valleys of Andorra, Knight of the Great Cross of the Royal American Order of Isabelle the Catholic, roman noble of the Council of S.M. etc. etc.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.....

Reminding that in the pareages of Andorra on the 8th September, 1278, confirmed by His Holyness Pope Martin IV of Happy Memory that; "Concerning the Administration of Justice and Government, that, forever, the Viguiers of the Illust. Bishop of Urgel and of the noble Count of Foix, sovereign joint Princes of the Valleys of Andorra, have carried on in common and together the Government on the men of Andorra; that is:- High, Middle and Low Justice and all the things which belong or must belong to the Government or to the Juridication..... Considering that the immense majority of Andorrans were required of our care, 14th April of the present year, to remedy the serious abuses and evil customs that we regret, and about which we have complained so many times during Holy pastoral visits in the Valleys.....

Considering those abuses we wish to correct originate mainly from mis-observing customs of the Valleys of Andorra, that things have reached a point when, without the drastic reform the plaintiffs are proposing to us, those abuses will never be corrected and could result in anarchy which could be at the origin of the ruin of our beloved Valleys; wishing their happiness, after due thinking and consultation of wise persons concerned with the well being of the Valleys, and after praying to God, we come to ask and order that the rightful laws and customs of the Valleys of Andorra should be respected and applied exactly, and we adopt the dispositions and their practises that the majority of Andorrans asked us to take."

1. The right of vote for all Heads of family in the Valleys to elect 24 people who will form the General Council. They will be elected for four years, renewable by half every two years, and with the condition that they will look after everything concerning the atributions of the General Council.

2. These 24 members will be elected separately from the Parish Councillors: but they will have the power, according to that in use now, to be informed of conflicts between Parish Administrators and people.

3. The right of vote for Heads of family to elect local authorities of each respective Parish, and not to introduce a customary rotation, but truly to look after local interests and things concerning the Parish.

4. The right for the very same Heads of family to intervene, and know the administration and accounts of local interests that are given once a year on a given day: people being able to intervene through "Commissionnats" elected for two years.

If the Co-Princes or the so formed authorities indicate that other abuses or mal-practises must be eliminated, the reform will be applied to them while upholding all the rights of the Co-Princes, the laws, the traditional customs which will not be affected by the reforms mentioned above.

It would not be possible here to give in detail all the alterations brought to the Andorran Institutions by this Reform. These Institutions, of a feudal nature, which had evolved gradually, were not meeting the countries requirements any longer. The conclusion was given in the proclamation the Sindic - Don Quillem - addressed to the Andorrans on 31st May, 1866, the day of the publication of the Reformation Act which was his work.

"This Reform, deeply required after the deplorable administrative situations known of you all, and that our Valley has suffered acutely for many years, found its origin in the concern and patriotic zeal of the vast majority of people. It has been encouraged and decreed by our Sovereign Co-Prince, His Excellency the Bishop of Urgel, and also planned and brought about mainly by him. It has organised solemnly and in good order these elections, involving all the Parishes and Heads of family. It has formed the Illustre General Council in a customary fashion, having designated its President and First Councillor, and the other Councillors in its session of the 28th and 29th May, 1866. Things are coming back to normal and, at the same time the period of unrest and worrying is brought to an end, fortunately without criminal attempts, damages or serious agitation, and without people or possessions being affected.

Nothing is safer removed from the new Government than to interfere in any way with the laws and customs which have ruled this Republic for so many centuries. We ask from you a faithful and respectful observance of these same traditions for the maintenance and good use of the old customs and practices. The only novelty having been introduced being to bring you to participate, more or less directly to the Administration of the country and to feel morally responsible of the result.

Know how to exploit lessons from experience, that is what we can advise you to do. Know the abuses and evils before they become incurable; it will be, therefore, easier to understand the renewal of opinion and to ensure the renewal of the people who are in charge of power. Their necessary independence is a good criterion to choose those who will be the most able and the most gifted. Have sufficient patience during the period between two elections, if you think that your choice has not met your expectations and good intentions.

In these conditions, the authorities established in the Valley by a nearly universal franchise, and recognised abroad by the Co-Princes and the neighbouring nations, will look after and work for the keeping of tranquility and confidence. They will destroy evils and extreme abuses which threaten public and private wealth, and will protect people and everybodies interests, and will sustain your affection towards the public establishment as well as your commendable loyalty to its institutions and its regime. It will develop education and standards of living and will do justice to everybody. Legal protentions and, above all, inequalities which sometimes worry you will be taken into consideration, and the rights of everybody will be respected, according to his class and condition. The only reward we seek is to deserve your esteem and confidence after fulfilling the mission you entrust me with.

That, in everybodies name, I guarantee and assure."
The Attorney General of the Valleys of Andorra
Guillem de Areny y de Plandolit
Andorra, 31st May, 1866.

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