|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.
Church of San Julián de los Prados
|(Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Church of Santa María del Naranco
Church of San Miguel de Lillo
|(Source: Ángel M. Felicísimo)|
How to get there
|View of Oviedo from Monte Naranco|
The Church of San Julián de los Prados is in a much more central location, about 15 minutes walking distance from the cathedral. It’s only open for a couple hours in the morning and afternoon, so double check online before you go.
For more information* “Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias” from UNESCO
* Arquitectura Prerrománica Asturiana on Arteguias.com (Spanish)
* Asturian art on Turismo-Prerromanico.com
* San Julián de los Prados on TurismoAsturias.es
* Santa María del Naranco on TurismoAsturias.es
* San Miguel de Lillo on TurismoAsturias.es
Does early-medieval art and architecture fascinate or bore you? What do you think about these 1,000-year-old churches in Asturias? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
For more pictures, check out my album on Flickr.