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Oviedo, as Seen by Quasimodo

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The priests at the Cathedral were kind enough to grant us special access to the bell tower to take some shots of Oviedo from above. The stairs are in poor condition, so it’s understandable why the tower is normally closed to the public. Looking out over the city, Juergen and I both became melancholic. Our three months in Oviedo had come to an end.

Oiveo
Bell Tower Oviedo
Oviedo Ciudad
Facade Oviedo
Oviedo Bicho
Bell tower
Bell Tower Oviedo
Oviedo Tower
Ciudad Naranco
Oviedo Spain
Reyes Oviedo
Plaza Cathedral
Tourists Oviedo

Some more random Cathedral images:

Oviedo Cruz
Luz Santa
Oviedo Holida
Oviedo Night Life

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October 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm Comments (2)

El Teatro Campoamor

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The Teatro Campoamor is Oviedo’s most important theater, home to the annual Prince of Asturias awards in October and the scene of operas and theater pieces throughout the year.

Teatro Campoamor

The building was completed in 1892, and named in honor of one of Spain’s most popular poets, Ramón de Campoamor, who was born in Navia. Campoamor adhered to the Spanish realism movement, and achieved great fame during his own lifetime.

Built to replace the creaky old Teatro del Fontán, which is today the public library, the Teatro Campoamor was an instant hit among the burgeoning Oviedo society. The neoclassic architecture has a distinctly Italian feel and, in fact, the theater was designed mainly to stage major Italian operas.

Every October, the Teatro Campoamor becomes the focal point of all Spain, when the Premios Príncipe de Asturias are held here. All of Oviedo turns out for a chance to see some of the country’s most famous people enter and exit the theater, including the dashing Prince Felipe of Asturias, who’s in charge of the proceedings.

Location of the Teatro Campoamor on our Oviedo Map

Meet Princess Letizia

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October 24, 2010 at 10:27 am Comment (1)

El Santullano – The Pinnacle of Asturian Pre-Romanesque

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Every day, thousands of people fly right past the most well-preserved and impressive Pre-Romanesque church in all of Spain: the Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados. Also known as the Santullano (from Sanct Iulianus), the ancient church lays along the highway which unites Oviedo and Gijón.

El Santullano

The Santullano was built in 812 by King Alonso II, making it even older than the Santa María del Naranco. It’s endured very little damage, and is one of the largest Pre-Romanesque churches still standing. 1200 years old. Mind-blowing.

It’s little wonder that King Alfonso would choose to christen his church in honor of Saint Julian, an 3rd century Egyptian forced into marriage with Basilissa. Julian and Basilissa decided to leave their marriage unconsummated, and were chaste until the day they were tortured and killed as Christian martyrs. Alfonso likewise would die a virgin. Originally his Santullano was part of a large religious and administrative complex outside the new capital of Oviedo, but the church is the only structure to have survived the centuries.

The Santullano is impressive for its architecture: the Roman influences and austere facade. But what most stands out is the interior artwork. 1200-year-old mosaic depictions of pastoral scenes, city buildings and geometric figures. These are the most well-preserved works of their time period in all Western Europe, and are unique in that they don’t portray any human forms, or the kinds of images normally associated with religious artwork.

Although it’s just a kilometer outside of the city, and entrance is less than two euros, the Santullano is something all too many people skip on. Don’t make that mistake.

Location on our Oviedo Map

Iglesia El Santullano
Iglesias Oviedo
Alfonso Oviedo
Santullano
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October 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm Comments (0)

Colombres and the Museum of Emigration

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Looking for a place to stay new Colombres?

At the end of the 19th century, Spain was mired in one of its darkest periods. Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were gone as a result of the Spanish-American War, and an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Morocco had left the country in a tailspin. Many escaped to the New World, where society was on the rise rather than in decline. This included a massive number of Asturians: mostly single, young and ambitious. They lent their enthusiasm to the growing countries of the Western Hemisphere, and made a fortune doing so.

Colombres Asturias

Many of these newly moneyed youngsters eventually returned home. Known as Indianos, they built fabulous homes and spent their wealth freely, at a time when the Principality desperately needed it. The mansions of the Indianos can be found all over Asturias, but no other town has such a remarkable collection as Colombres, near the border with Cantabria.

One house in Colombres stands out among the rest: the Quinta Guadalupe, constructed by Iñigo Noriega Laso, who emigrated to Mexico and became both extremely rich and politically influential. Today, his amazing mansion is the Museum of Emigration, dedicated to this interesting period in Asturian history. There are emotional photographs of emigrants leaving Spain, models of the boats on which they traveled, personal stories of adventure and danger, and information about the various Centros Asturianos which are still active in Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and the USA.

The museum is interesting, and it’s nice to be able to step inside such a house. Much of the original furniture is still present, and the library is full of tomes dedicated to the immigrant experience. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by.

Location of Colombres on our Day Trips Map

Magnolia Sprout
Water Drip
Bizarre Garden
Quinta Guadalupe
Mexico Asturias
Emmigration Museum
Museo Emmigracion
Detail Asturias
Muebles Asturias
emmigration asturias
Eduardo Urculo New York
Williams B. Arrensberg
Inka
Asturiano Dinero

Visit Stockholm

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October 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm Comment (1)

Hotel de la Reconquista

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Oviedo’s most famous and luxurious hotel was built over 250 years ago as an orphanage and hospital for the city. But the altruism has long since faded, and the huge building has gone from caring for the city’s most poor and downtrodden, to catering to the rich and famous.

Luxury Hotel Asturias

If a well-known actor or foreign dignitary is visiting Oviedo, it’s even money that they’re staying in the Hotel de la Reconquista, the most exclusive 5-star joint in the city. The hotel serves as the seat for the Prince of Asturias Awards, when Oviedo is invaded by Spain’s most famous intellects, scientists, athletes and royalty.

As you’d expect, the Reconquista is gorgeous. Most striking is the massive coat of arms in the center of the facade. There are a couple impressive interior patios, such as the 900 square meter Patio de la Reina, where evening cocktails are served.

The price aren’t really as terrifying as might be expected, starting from about €145 for a double room. But if you’re a classy gentlemen, for whom only the fanciest rooms possible will do, you might want to look at the Suite Real, at just over €1500 per night. Come on, you can afford it, can’t you? Look at you, fancy man, of course you can!

Book your stay here: Hotel de la Reconquista

Location on our Asturias Hotel Map

Reconquista Oviedo
Hotel de la Reconquista
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October 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm Comment (1)

The Fountain of the Foncalada

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“With this sign the pious are protected, With this sign you shall defeat the enemy”
Fontan Foncalada

This is the inscription engraved upon the Foncalada: a fountain near the city center, and the only remaining civil service structure in Asturias still standing from the Middle Ages. It was constructed in the 9th Century at the behest of King Alfonso III, and features the Victory Cross above the inscription.

In 2008, the Foncalada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. That the fountain still works is remarkable in and of itself. We walked by about 50 times without ever descending the stairs to check it out. Don’t make that mistake: the Foncalada takes about 10 seconds to see, and is definitely worth a picture.

Location of the Fuente de Foncalada

Cruz Asturias
Foncalada
Fontan Asturias
Middle Ages Oviedo

Oviedo Shirt

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October 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm Comments (0)

The Plaza de España and Francisco Franco

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I love living in Spain for a lot of reasons: siestas, wine, crazy parties, friendly people, the beautiful language. Also, I’m fascinated by history, and Spain is full of it. The Spanish Civil War is of particular interest; the ultimate left-right clash, the workers against the privileged, the cohesion of the Francoists and the suicidal splintering of the liberals, the cowardice of the world’s democracies, the brutality shown by foreign fascist powers, the self-sacrifice of the International Brigades and of course the war’s terrible, soul-crushing end. In this movie, the bad guys won. It’s utterly captivating.

Francisco Franco

Years later, the wounds haven’t completely healed over; the war was too brutal, and the disastrous reign of Franco too long. In an attempt to finally help Spain reach a sense of closure, the government passed the Historical Memory Law in 2007, officially condemning the Fascist regime. It honors the victims on both sides of the war and grants honorary Spanish citizenship to all members of the International Brigade. But most tangibly, the law mandates the removal of all Francoist symbols and statues from public areas.

It appears that regal, conservative Oviedo didn’t get the memo. In the Plaza de España, one of the country’s last Francoist statues is still standing tall, looking over the Campo de San Francisco. It was erected to commemorate the Caudillo’s death. Franco’s face appears on a medallion on the statue’s base, below an inscription reading “From Oviedo to Francisco Franco”, while above, Hera the Greek Queen of the Gods, presides over the scene. Franco’s face has been the target of paint, graffiti and defamation over the years.

We never heard an official explanation as to why this statue which honors Spain’s most infamous ruler is still standing in the middle of the city. I’m not necessarily an advocate of the forced removal of such monuments, but Oviedo sure seems to be flaunting a national law, despite the pressure of groups dedicated to erasing the lingering memory of Franco.

Location of the Plaza de España on our Oviedo Map

Franco Oviedo
Delfín Oviedo
Franco Hate Spain
Hola Franco
October 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm Comments (4)

The Gothic Cloister of Oviedo’s Cathedral

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After admiring the relics in the Cámara Santa, visitors can continue their journey through the ancient wing of Oviedo’s Cathedral by ascending to the second floor into the Museum of Sacred Art. This museum opened in 1990, and is one of Asturias’ more important collections of religious iconography.

Gothic Cloister Oviedo

Depending on how interested you are in gold-plated crucifixes and ornamental robes, you might spend more or less time in the museum. We chose “less”, but mainly because we were too excited to enter the Gothic Cloister. Descending stairs at the far end of the museum, visitors are deposited in a beautiful courtyard. Rectangular with exquisite pointed arches around the yard, this is Asturian Gothic at its most pure.

Adjoining the courtyard are a number of interesting rooms, including the Crypt of Saint Leocadia, a 3rd century Christian martyr from Toledo whose mortal remains were brought to Oviedo to protect them from the Moors. There’s also a chapter house, with choral benches delicately worked in wood, and a garden with an ancient olive tree. This used to be the cemetery of pilgrims who’d died on the way to Santiago, and legend has it that the olive tree was brought from Jerusalem.

Too many people visit the Cathedral and skip out on the Cámara Santa, museum and the Gothic Cloister. That’s understandable, because these rooms don’t seem enticing from the entranceway, and cost money while the Cathedral is free. But don’t make that mistake, or you’ll miss the aspects which make the Cathedral de San Salvador such a unique place of worship.

Crypt Saint Leocadia
Cruz Oviedo
Gothic Oviedo
Oviedo Window
Columns Oviedo
Oviedo Cathedral
Oviedo Funny
Religion Figure
Goth Crave
Dino King
Pets of Religion
Angel
Oviedo Tourist
Gothic Cloister
Judges Oviedo
Jesus Arm Broken
Scenes from the Cross
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October 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm Comments (3)

The Cámara Santa – The Cathedral’s Holy Chamber

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Accessed through a passage on the southern side of the Cathedral, the Pre-Romanesque Cámara Santa dates from the 9th century. It was originally King Alfonso’s private chapel, and today houses some of the most important relics in Asturias. In 1998, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

Cruz-de-los-Angeles

Three treasures stand out in the collection of the Cámara Santa. The Cross of the Angels is the symbol of Oviedo, a Greek-style cross crafted by two angels in the guise of pilgrims, or so the legend goes. The cross suffered massive damage during the Miner’s Strike of 1934, and was stolen from the Cámara Santa in 1977. The robbers took it apart, meaning to sell the individual pieces, though the cross was mostly recovered.

More well known is the Victory Cross, which features on the Asturian flag. The wooden cross is covered in gold and ornamented with precious jewels. It was given to the Cathedral in the 10th century, and legend maintains that this was the cross carried by Pelayo during the history-altering Battle of Covadonga, when a rag-tag group of Christians defeated an overwhelming Moorish army at the beginning of the Reconquista.

Another treasure of the Cámara Santa is the Agate Casket, a beautifully ornate golden box from the 10th century. Like always, the legend about the box’s origin is far more colorful than the likely truth. Many moons ago, a great Moorish king arrived on the shores of Asturias bearing the Agate Casket, insisting on handing it to the priest of Luarca. After he departed, the Asturian villagers watched in terror as a pack of wolves emerged from the woods and surrounded them. But rather than attack, the wolves simply knelt in front of the casket and howled. SUCH IS THE POWER OF THE AGATE CASKET!!

The Cámara Santa is cool, for both its age and architecture. Above the entrance door, float the disembodied heads of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, surely the room’s weirdest feature. The sacred items on display may be more interesting to Asturians who grew up with the legends than to clueless foreigners, but the chamber is still worth the price of entry.

Related posts: The Cathedral in Oviedo fist impressionInside the Cathedral of San Salvador

Entrada Camera Santa
Entrance Camera Santa
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Treasure Oviedo
Cruz Victoria
Agate Casket
Jesus Treasure
Camina Santiago 2010
Da Dudes
Hungry Beasts
Holy Head
Hungry Mega Beasts
Stairs Camera Santa
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October 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm Comments (6)

Inside the Cathedral of San Salvador

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As is the case in almost every Spanish city, Oviedo’s most impressive and important building is its cathedral. With a history stretching back to the 8th century, and an official name which takes nearly eight centuries to pronounce, the Santa Iglesia Basílica Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador de Oviedo is the must-see highlight during a visit to the city.

Cathedral Oviedo

The original Pre-Romanesque church was constructed in 876 AD by King Fruela I. Very little of that structure remains, and the cathedral of today is the product of centuries of additions and reconstructions; a mix of styles from the Romanesque, to the Baroque and Renaissance. But it’s mainly Gothic. With a long, 67-meter central nave, the adjoining Cámara Santa, patios, gardens and at least 17 chapels, the Cathedral is the massive stone heart of Oviedo; a mute witness to the city’s entire development.

There is a lot to see inside the cathedral. The central Gothic altarpiece, depicting a multitude of scenes from the life of the Savior, is considered one of the most important in Spain, alongside those of Seville and Granada. And for hundreds of years, pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago have venerated the Cathedral’s wooden statue of El Salvador, thought to be from the 13th century.

The most beautiful chapel in the church is the Capilla del Rey Casto, with an amazing Gothic portal and “Pantheon of Kings”, where the mortal remains of the “Chaste King” Alfonso II, along with numerous other rulers of Asturias, are kept. The ambulatory, a Baroque semi-circular passage around the main altar, consists of a number of private chapels, each dedicated to a different saint.

The Cathedral also contains the Cámara Santa: a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the sanctuary of the most important relics in Asturias. Additionally, the Gothic Cloister is an often overlooked section. We visited the cathedral multiple times during our stay, and always found something new to admire.

Organ Oviedo
Unesco Oviedo
Priest Preach
Rose Eye Oviedo
Tour Oviedo
Oviedo Cathredral
Ambulatory Oviedo
Gold Oviedo
Holy Gold
Altar Oviedo
Gothic Altar Piece Oviedo
Capilla del Rey Casto
Oviedo
Jesus Oviedo
Rey Casto Oviedo
Rey Casto Detail
Stuck Oviedo
ceiling rey casto
Key to Oviedo
Camino Santiago Oviedo
Listen To God
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October 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm Comments (4)

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Oviedo, as Seen by Quasimodo The priests at the Cathedral were kind enough to grant us special access to the bell tower to take some shots of Oviedo from above. The stairs are in poor condition, so it's understandable why the tower is normally closed to the public. Looking out over the city, Juergen and I both became melancholic. Our three months in Oviedo had come to an end.
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