|Church of Santa María la Real de Covadonga|
The Royal Site of Covadonga, hidden deep within the mountains of the Picos de Europa National Park, belongs to the latter group of destinations. A small, underwhelming collection of monuments, Covadonga holds a special place in the Spanish national psyche for being the place where Spain was born.
What happened here?
|The strategically-located cave|
Call them Christian noblemen, call them barbarian warlords—whoever they were, their leader was named Pelayo. And in 722, having previously refused to pay the jizya tax imposed on non-Muslims, Pelayo and the men under his command engaged in combat against a band of Moorish troops…and won, here in Covadonga. After this military success, Pelayo would move to nearby Cangas de Onís and establish the Kingdom of Asturias, the first Christian realm founded after the Muslim conquest.
|Statue to Pelayo|
Christian dominion would later expand east to Galicia, south to León, and west to Castilla; i.e., from Asturias, the predecessors of the modern Kingdom of Spain were born. As the saying goes, “Asturias is Spain, and all the rest is conquered land.”
The Holy Cave of Covadonga
|Small cliffside chapel|
According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared during the battle to help the Christian warriors. Today there is a small chapel dedicated to this apparition of Mary, la Virgen de Covadonga, perched precariously in, so they say, the very same cave where Pelayo and his soldiers camped out. An ornately-decorated statue called La Santina draws the faithful from all across the country every year.
|Burial place of Pelayo|
A neo-medieval basilica
|Perched high on a hilltop|
|Inside the moody church|
Next stop: the Picos de Europa
|The steep, fog-covered hills|
Had you heard about Covadonga before? What’s your opinion: re-conquest or simply “conquest”? Debate below in the discussion thread!
For more pictures, check out my album on Flickr.