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.
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.
Oviedo may be the political center of the Principality of Asturias, but Covadonga is its spiritual heart. This mountain sanctuary near Cangas de Onís is where King Pelayo led a ragtag bunch of Christians to victory over a much larger Muslim force in the 8th century. It was Christianity’s first triumph since the Moorish conquest of Iberia, and marked the beginning of the 800-year Reconquista.
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.
A couple years before the Spanish Civil War, a mini-revolution would rock Asturias and Oviedo. The Miners’ Strike of 1934, or the Revolución de Asturias, lasted just two weeks but resulted in a lot of carnage. It was one of the first indications that the bad blood between “The Two Spains” was about to boil over.
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.
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.
“Pre-Romanesque” is a confusing architectural term. The style didn’t appear until centuries after the Romans, so it’s not exactly pre-Roman at all. Instead, the term refers to buildings which pre-date the Romanesque architecture of medieval times, named so because of its rounded Roman arches.