Place of interest

2. The Episcopal Palace and its surroundings

The Bishops of Urgell have a peculiarity that makes them virtually unique in all the world, and this is that, in addition being in charge of the Diocese of Urgell, the most extensive in Catalonia, they are also the heads of State of the Principality of Andorra, jointly and separately with the President of the French Republic. This circumstance, rooted in the complex history of human relations from both sides of the Pyrenees, means that the Episcopal Palace of La Seu d’Urgell is not only the residence of the Bishop and the seat of the administrative services of the diocese, but is also the residence of a head of State and a diplomatic mission, meaning that part of the building is extraterritorial and is considered, in part, Andorran territory.

During the Middle Ages, the Bishops of Urgell would change the location of their residence according to the circumstances at any particular time. In the late 14th century, the core of what would become the current Palace was constructed in the eastern area of the city. The first palace had a clearly defensive function as well as being a residence. Attached to the city walls of the La Seu, the palace was actually a castle with a central courtyard and connected towers that strengthened this defensive sector of La Seu d’Urgell.

In the 19th century, the Palace underwent of a major refurbishment by Calixte Freixa, an architect from the diocese who was also responsible for one of the first reconstruction projects of the shrine of Núria, who designed and executed a historicist project with a distinct neo-Gothic appearance that, with some later alterations, has survived to the present day.

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