This hermitage located next to the Andorran town of Canillo is one of the best surviving examples of Romanesque architecture in the Principality of Andorra. It is a temple from the end of the 12th century and was built on the old road that linked Andorra with France.
Few information is known about its construction and very little documentation from the medieval period has survived to this day. In fact, although there are historical documents about Canillo from that same 12th century, the first reference to the hermitage itself is preserved from the year 1312, when it is mentioned as a stopover made by the archbishop during his pastoral visit to these lands during this year. And in that same document it is mentioned that the hermitage was guarded by the rector of the parish church of the nearby town of Canillo.
Hermitage of Sant Joan de Caselles
Like many buildings of the time located in mountainous areas, it is a small church. Specifically, it has a single rectangular nave, of outstanding height and with a simple wooden roof, and a semicircular apse that dates back to the original construction.
Today several works of art are preserved inside. Surely the outstanding one is a stucco image of Christ in Majesty, of considerable dimensions, and which is framed bywall paintings depicting Calvary that were made in the twelfth century. To this we must add a Gothic altarpiece from the 16th century, whose execution is attributed to the so-called Maestro de Canillo.
And as for the exterior, its bell tower stands out, located on the north side of the nave. It is a tower with a quadrangular floor plan and in height it shows three levels of windows, where decoration can be seen in the Lombard style, especially in the two upper ones, which are twinned. This type of element can be found in many Pyrenean constructions of the time, and is due to the presence of master builders of northern Italian origin, who either worked here or left their influence.
Currently, the union between the bell tower and the nave is made by means of a rectangular body, although originally it would be independent from the rest of the temple, something that makes it a unique example within the set of small Romanesque hermitages of the Principality of Andorra, among which the church of Santa Coloma stands out for its antiquity.
Another peculiarity of Sant Joan de Caselles is that it has the access door on the north side, since the most common is on the south, but here it was not feasible due to the presence of a ravine over the nearby river. That access door is covered by an atrium covered with pillars and wooden beams of great value. Upon visiting it, another porch can be seen on the western side, but this one is much later.