|Church of Santa María del Naranco|
Oviedo kept showing up on my travel radar because of its impressive collection of monuments that date back to the 800s CE—yes, you read that correctly; not 1800 but 800. My inner history geek couldn’t wait to check out three well-preserved pre-Romanesque churches, built in a style that blossomed in this part of Spain during the otherwise gloomy Dark Ages.
What does it mean to be “pre-Romanesque”?
|Carved capital on an engaged column|
|Stairs leading up to the Church of Santa María del Naranco|
Abandoning the distinctive horseshoe arches from Visigothic times, Asturian architects reached further back and drew on the simple, semicircular Roman arch and threw it in everywhere it could fit: vaulted ceilings, windows, doors, and halls. They also were inspired to resurrect the basilica plan for their churches; this simply means having a long central nave or hall bounded by an aisle on either side, capped with three slanted roofs.
The few churches that remain from this two-century-long movement have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, and for me I think the fact that they’ve lasted 1,200 years more or less intact, despite wars and bad weather, is just as fascinating as their unique architectural style.