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Benito Jerónimo Feijóo

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Though he was born in Galicia, Benito Jerónimo Feijóo spent the bulk of his life in Oviedo. One of Spain’s foremost enlightenment thinkers, the intellectual, religious and philosophical works of Feijóo had reverberations throughout the world. The Benedictine monk died in 1769 at the ripe old age of 89, and is buried in the Iglesia de Santa María de la Corte, near the plaza which bears his name.

Benito Jeronimo Feijoo

Don’t ask me how to pronounce Feijóo, because I have no idea. I’ve been saying it like “FIGH-jew”, which is probably way off.

Feijóo was a professor at the University of Oviedo, most well known for his ideas challenging superstition and folklore. He was skeptical of anything of an otherworldly nature, such as exorcisms. He famously “cured” one possessed soul by reading aloud a comical romantic farce in Latin. The afflicted man didn’t understand what was being said, but leaped from his bed upon hearing the Latin words, miraculously free of the devil.

Feijóo held radical ideas for his day. He was a proponent of enlightened thinking, and his teachings challenged the more orthodox Catholic practices. King Charles III studied his essays, and would work the ideas of Enlightened Absolutism into his rule, guaranteeing better freedoms for his subjects. Feijóo is also known to have written one of the world’s first feminist tracts: “La defensa de las mujeres“, where he bravely argues for the equality of the sexes.

During San Mateo, the Plaza de Feijóo plays host to raucous rock concerts; somehow, I think that he would have liked that.

Location of the Plaza de Feijóo

Feijoo
Feijoo Oviedo
3 D Cross
Santa Maria Oviedo

Castle Hotel Oviedo

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October 16, 2010 at 7:08 pm Comments (3)

El Cristo – Oviedo from Above

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The neighborhood of El Cristo occupies a hill just south-west of the city center, and hosts the majority of the University of Oviedo’s facilities.

Power Plant Oviedo

We ascended into El Cristo, a hundred meters above the historic center, to check out the neighborhood. It’s a lively area full of students and residents, and interesting both for the crazy university architecture and the views over the valley.

Oviedo’s Plaza de Toros can be found in El Cristo, towards the foot of the hill. It’s out of use and has apparently become the hangout for the city’s alcoholics; at 11am, we saw a woman squatting in the bushes with her pants down, trying clownishly to maintain balance without letting go of her beer bottle. We named her “Sweetie”. Sweetie del Cristo.

The architecture is surreal, exactly what a sci-fi writer from 1964 might consider “futuristic”. Up at the very top of the hill, we arrived at the old meteorological center and a bunch of industrial storage silos, which would make a great location for a Hollywood chase scene. Overall, we liked El Cristo more than we thought we would. A cool contrast to the rest of Oviedo, which is so monumental and ancient.

Cristo Oviedo
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Oviedo Students
Students Lost
Calatrava Swimming Pool
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September 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm Comments (2)

The University of Oviedo

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Established in 1574, the University of Oviedo has been an important part of the city for centuries. Its founder was the Archibishop Fernando de Valdés Salas, an inquisitive chap whom we earlier profiled. Oviedo’s is the only public university in Asturias, and currently educates more than 25,000 students.

Lamap Biblioteca Oviedo

We took a tour of the original university hall, which is now used for exhibits, cultural events and special ceremonies. Set around a perfectly square courtyard, the lovely building includes a chapel, auditorium, classrooms and an impressive library.

The University chugged along through the Ages of Reason and Enlightenment, and into Modernity, until the Miner’s Strike of 1934, when it was nearly destroyed by workers who saw it as a symbol of the privileged bourgeois. The destruction was completed shortly thereafter, during the Civil War, and teaching came to a complete halt. It remained closed for years, and evidence of warfare is even today visible in the holes and scars of the building’s walls.

The 45-minute long tour was interesting throughout, especially when demonstrating how tightly connected to religion the Spanish education system used to be. Today, classes take place in the modern University buildings of the neighborhood of El Cristo, as well as on campuses in Gijón and Mieres.

Location on our Oviedo Map
More Information about the History of the University

Archibishop Fernando Oviedo
Uni Sigel Oviedo
University Bells
Oviedo University
Miner Strike War
Spain Traces of War
Lady Full of Wonders
Like a Painting Oviedo
School Curtain
I heart school
Oviedo University Tour
Philipus Oviedo
Fluffy Hat
University Hallway
Biblioteca Oviedo
Buechrei Oviedo
Spain Library Stairs
Oviedo Biblioteca

Camiseta Oviedo

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September 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

Gijón’s Universidad Laboral

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Are you looking for a Hotel in Gijón?

The largest building in Spain is found in Gijón. About three miles outside the city center, the massive Universidad Laboral gobbles up 66 acres of land. Built between 1946 and 1956, the Laboral is an astounding memorial to the grandiloquence and megalomania of the Franco era.

Universidad Laboral

The Laboral was originally designed to be an orphanage for the children of miners. But during construction, they adapted its purpose to that of a Technical College (“screw the brats!”). Luis Moya, the lead architect, envisioned the Laboral as a Utopian, fully enclosed and self-sustaining city, with its own “Plaza Mayor”, church and theater, and even a farm.

For generations, the university was one of Spain’s largest, churning out legions of highly-skilled craftsmen. No one can complain about that, but the building itself has always been highly contentious, with many viewing the Francoist monolith as an embarrassing blight on the edge of Gijón. That disdain worsened in the 1980s, when the university closed up and the Laboral fell into an awful state of disrepair. But the Asturian government came to the rescue in 2001, initiating reforms that have today converted the Laboral into a multi-use complex, with art exhibits, tours, theater and music, and educative functions.

There’s something haunting about large structures, and since we visited on a quiet, drizzly Sunday afternoon, the eerie sense of desolation was emphasized. As we wandered the deserted halls, I kept expecting to hear shrieks from forgotten laboratories behind shuttered doors, or be attacked by a disfigured hunchback hiding around a darkened corner. If it wanted to, the Laboral could host the greatest haunted house of all time.

Besides our trip up the tower, we visited an awesome temporary art exhibit in the old university kitchens, and got a drink at the cafe overlooking a large pool, but soon ran out of things to do. I’d recommend calling ahead and making sure to visit while guided tours are going on. In any case, the building is outrageous, and well worth seeing if you’re in Gijón.

Location on our Asturias Map
Official Website (English)

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September 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm Comments (2)
Benito Jernimo Feijo Though he was born in Galicia, Benito Jernimo Feijo spent the bulk of his life in Oviedo. One of Spain's foremost enlightenment thinkers, the intellectual, religious and philosophical works of Feijo had reverberations throughout the world. The Benedictine monk died in 1769 at the ripe old age of 89, and is buried in the Iglesia de Santa Mara de la Corte, near the plaza which bears his name.
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