Monuments of Oviedo and Asturias (World Heritage)

By | August 8, 2021

A strong resistance against the Moorish invaders formed in Asturias. The construction of numerous churches began here in the 8th century with the reconquest of the Moorish areas. The world heritage includes Visigoth, ie pre-Romanesque churches in and around Oviedo. They originated in the 9th and 10th centuries. These include Santa Maria del Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo, Santa Cristina de Lena, the Cámara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo and San Julián de los Prados.

Monuments of Oviedo and Asturias: facts

Official title: Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of Asturias
Cultural monument: “Holy Chamber” (Cámara Santa) in the Cathedral of Oviedo, the largest pre-Romanesque church of San Julián de los Prados (Oviedo), measuring 30×25 m; San Pedro de Nora, Santa María de Bendones, Santa María de Naranco, the preserved western third of San Miguel de Lillo, Santa Cristina de Lena, San Salvador de Valdediós
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain, Asturias
Location: in the vicinity of Oviedo
Appointment: 1985, expanded in 1998
Meaning: Pre-Romanesque architecture as an important part of medieval architecture on the Iberian Peninsula

Monuments of Oviedo and Asturias: History

8th century Foundation of the Kingdom of Asturias after the “Battle of Covadonga” (May 28, 722)
791-842 Reign of Alfonso II, nickname “El Casto” (“The Chaste”); “Holy Chamber” (palace chapel and burial place for Saints Leocadia and Eulogius)
808 Foundation of the »Angel Cross«
812-42 San Julian de los Prados
842-50 Reign of Ramiro I.; Santa Cristina de Lena, Santa María de Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo
6/24/848 Foundation of the Marian Altar of Santa María de Naranco
866-910 Reign of Alfonso III.
893 Consecration of San Salvador de Valdediós

Capitals and arches in meadow green

In the substructure of the church of Santa María de Naranco, Asturias King Ramiro I used to undress and go to the private thermal baths. One is taken aback. A thermal bath in the church, with a discreet, separate entrance; a stone bathing pool in which the monarch – possibly like in ancient Rome – played his lustful mischief with playmates? No, Ramiro I was not a disrespectful church molester. He bathed and sweated in those times when Santa María de Naranco served him as a comfortable country palace and the vaulted hall on the upper floor as a hall for large receptions. Only in the later course of the 9th century was the massive, rectangular palace on the slopes of Oviedo’s local mountain, Monte Naranco, converted into a house of worship.

For more than a thousand years, most of the pre-Romanesque monuments in Asturias have been set in a landscape of gentle, green hills. Asturias ‘Temple of the Lord’ cannot be measured by the proportions of huge Spanish cathedrals. Their dimensions are consistently modest and, by today’s standards, mostly correspond to chapels. From a distance, they look squat and bulky and, with their shell made of bricks and quarry stone, seem to symbolize the rustic character of northern Spain.

According to computergees, the closer you step to the churches, however, the greater the size of a simple, haunting elegance, a harmony stone in stone with ornamented capitals, ornate lattice windows, rope-like corrugations of the columns and medallions with figurative motifs. Only pale remains of the frescoes, as in the church of San Miguel de Lillo built on Monte Naranco, have survived, traces of a previously splendid interior design with wall-filling paintings, finely crafted furniture and goldsmiths, as well as curtains made of fine fabrics. A lively circus scene in the middle of the portal relief of San Miguel de Lillo is still preserved: a whip-wielding lion tamer brings a lion to the hind legs, a floor acrobat shows his daring exercise. The ruler sits enthroned between two advisors in the upper and lower portal field. Is there homage to Ramiros I’s accession to the throne with “bread and games”?

San Miguel de Lillo and the church of Santa María de Naranco, also located on the southern slope of Monte Naranco, are among the thirty pre-Romanesque churches in Asturias that were built under Alfonso II, Ramiro I and Alfons III. were built. Presumably it was the same artist workshops that took on the buildings, their decorations and – in the forerunner of the Romanesque style – the new, barrel-shaped vaults of the church naves. They created an unprecedented aesthetic unity of Christian-European architecture in the small northern Spanish kingdom.

But Asturias is not just a green idyll with lonely churches, but in some places with flourishing coal mines and heavy industry is anything but a pleasure. And yet: such tribute to modernity in the wild and romantic valley of Boides with the church of San Salvador de Valdediós is blown away. A little lost and at the same time sublime, the three-aisled church juts out of the meadow. What is striking is the high, slender elevation of the central nave, which is surmounted by a tiny bell attachment and from which the tiled roofs slope down to the long sides in abrupt steps. As it is one of the latest pre-Romanesque churches, the horseshoe arches of the windows show Moorish elements that artists had adopted from the Muslim-occupied areas of Spain.

In Oviedo, the former royal capital and today’s Asturian capital, the church of San Julián de los Prados (remains of wall paintings) and the “Holy Chamber” (Cámara Santa) belonging to the cathedral from the pre-Romanesque period have been preserved. The “Holy Chamber” contains relics from that era, including the golden “Angel’s Cross” set with precious stones (Cruz de los Ángeles). On the reverse, an inscription by his royal donor Alfonso II Thief, warns of the robbery of the crucifix: »May this (cross), which Alfons, a humble servant of Christ, offer, remain (here) for the glory of God. Whoever dares to take it from me, where I offer it of my own free will, may be struck by God’s lightning. ”

Monuments of Oviedo and Asturias (World Heritage)