Pre-Romanesque art in Asturias
Church of Santa María de Melide
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Discover an artistic style that is unique in the world: the Asturias pre-Romanesque. Come and see these 8th-10th century buildings with the UNESCO World Heritage designation. They stand out for the innovative style they showed at their time, with unique identity, perfectly integrated in the landscapes that surround them.
Why not visit one of the most beautiful places in Asturias, in northern Spain, with a route taking in its pre-Romanesque art. This is a stunning array of heritage and monuments comprising 14 buildings, constructed by the Asturian monarchy in the High Middle Ages. Did you know that this style played a fundamental role in the development of religious architecture in Spain? Admire these churches with artistic influences from the Roman Empire and the Visigoth civilisation, a truly avant-garde architectural movement of the time. Stone, arches, windows, colonnades, towers... all these come together with an austere feel, but also with unique harmony and aesthetics.
There are various routes to discover Asturias pre-Romanesque architecture. Here we present one of them, in the regional capital of Asturias, Oviedo, and its surrounding area. Here you will find the most representative monuments of this artistic style. These go from the largest and oldest of all, San Julián de los Prados Church (9th century), with murals that are unique in Europe, to the nearby La Foncalada fountain, the only known civil construction for public use dating from that period in the whole continent. Not forgetting the Cámara Santa Chapel, where you can see precious metal work dating back more than one thousand years, and which was, at one time, one of the most important religious sites in Christendom. Don't miss a visit to Santa María del Naranco Church, the most emblematic example of pre-Romanesque architecture. It is a unique building, home to the tomb of king Ramiro I, set in beautiful natural surroundings, on the slopes of the Naranco mountain. Just a few metres away is San Miguel de Lillo, where you can see frescoes and decorative reliefs, unique in the history of European art. A visit is well worthwhile, rest assured.
South of Oviedo there are other buildings in this same style, such as Santo Adriano de Tuñón, a small church with interesting murals, and Santa Cristina de Lena, one of the best examples of pre-Romanesque architecture, surrounded by a stunning landscape of valleys and mountains, whose iconostasis (a painstakingly worked stone screen with arches and lattices that separates the priests from the faithful) is a masterpiece. You will be surprised by this church, modest, yet immensely beautiful, immersed in the greenery of the surrounding countryside.
The last buildings to be put up during the pre-Romanesque period can be found in and around the town of Villaviciosa, with San Salvador de Valdediós Church being the most outstanding example on account of its paintings and the Mozarab influences to be found inside. Set off on this journey to the past, to times of kings and feudal lords, and discover an artistic and architectural heritage of immense value. This is a journey back into history in the age-old region of Asturias.