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Famous Ovetenses: Alfonso II the Chaste

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King of Asturias for 51 years, from 791 until his death in 842, Alfonso II el Casto had an impact on Oviedo that has barely diminished over the course of the centuries.

He moved the kingdom’s throne from Pravia to Oviedo, and built numerous churches in his new capital, including the Iglesia de San Tiro and the Cámara Santa. Renowned for his brave military victories against the Moors, particularly the history-changing conquest of Lisbon, Alfonso played an important role in re-settling the north of the Iberian peninsula for Christianity.

Ole Alfie was chaste during his reign. Nary a woman did he touch! So many centuries have passed that most knowledge about him comes from folklore but, by all accounts, he was an intensely sober and religous man who eschewed the pleasures of the flesh for those of the spirit. In fact, he was one of the very first pilgrims to travel to Santiago de Compostela, to visit the newly-discovered remains of Saint James the Greater. His unshakeable faith served as a model for the citizens of Oviedo, who to this day are more strongly religious than most of their countrymen.

Besides the regal statue found next to the cathedral, Oviedo has honored Alfonso’s memory by naming its most picturesque plaza after him.

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August 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm Comments (5)

A Concise History of Oviedo

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Possibly because I’m from the USA, where a building from 1910 is considered ancient, I’m fascinated by European history. A city like Oviedo, with centuries engraved into almost every corner and churches over one thousand years old… well, it’s too much for my little corn-fed American mind to fully comprehend.

Without getting too in depth, here’s a guide to the history of Oviedo. Later, we’ll publish specific articles about the more important people and happenings.

761 AD On a hill the Romans called Ovetao, two monks build a monastery consecrated to San Vincente (the Valencian martyr). This is considered the founding of the city.
812 The King of Asturias, Alfonso II the Chaste, brings his court to Oviedo, making it the capital of Spanish Christendom until 924, when the capital is moved south to León. Alfonso II The Chaste
Middle Ages No longer the capital, Oviedo loses much of its importance and wealth, and turns into an intensely religious city. Most famous for its catholic relics, it becomes an obligatory stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago.
1388 After being absorbed into the Spanish Kingdom, the Principality of Asturias is established with Oviedo as its capital, returning it to glory. From now on, the heir to the Spanish throne will be known as the Prince of Asturias.
1521 A fire on New Year’s Eve destroys the inner city, sparing only the cathedral, which escapes almost undamaged. Which didn’t do much to curtail the citizenry’s religious fervor.
1608 A catholic inquisitor, Fernando Valdés Salas, founds the University of Oviedo. When he’s not furthering educative goals, Salas is known as one of Spain’s most fanatic inquisitors, claiming many lives in the name of the Church and compiling an infamously broad list of banned artwork.
1808 Oviedo is one of the first Spanish cities to rise up in armed resistance to the French invasion. French troops assault the city for a year, but will eventually relent against the stubborn defense.
1884 La Regenta by Clarín is published. Set in Oviedo, the novel is considered among the greatest of the 19th century.
1934 Oviedo descends into chaos during the Miner’s Strike of 1934. In the resulting battles, the Cámara Santa is dynamited and over 3000 miners are killed. A couple years later, 75% of the city will be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
1985 UNESCO recognizes two city churches as World Heritage Sites.
2000 – Now Oviedo dedicates itself to livability, becoming one of Europe’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, and one of the safest and cleanest in all of Spain. With the city in tip-top shape, it’s attempting to be named the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

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August 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm Comments (6)
Famous Ovetenses: Alfonso II the Chaste King of Asturias for 51 years, from 791 until his death in 842, Alfonso II el Casto had an impact on Oviedo that has barely diminished over the course of the centuries.
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