You can say that any excuse is good to visit Asturias. Whether you want to tour the larger cities or if you want to make a rural getaway. It can also be a good idea to go there to enjoy its great and abundant gastronomy, or even to do some sport of mountain or sea. But, as it could not be otherwise, the cultural and historical aspect also has its protagonism in the Principality.
For this reason, we will explore the magnificent Asturian pre-Romanesque architecture, which has been one of the greatest symbols of the region for over a thousand years.
The Asturian pre-Romanesque style is unique. This is due, in the first place, to the fact that it developed free of influence from the Muslim occupation which had invaded the Iberian peninsula since the beginning of the eighth century, and gradually evolved until, by the tenth century, it assimilated the coming currents Of France and that concentrated what today we know as Romanesque.
But when we talk about something unique we also want to mention that its state of preservation and quality are excellent, and we could even say that its level is not below what the Byzantine or Carolingian courts achieved, by comparing it with Contemporary arts.
So prepare the backpack, because we are going to visit the most representative constructions of the pre-Romanesque Asturian, in a journey that will take us more than a thousand years ago.
Church of the Holy Cross
Photo Church of the Holy Cross via Wikimedia Commons
It is not the largest nor the most spectacular of the pre-Romanesque constructions, but it is the oldest. It was built by King Favila, the second king of Asturias, in Cangas de Onís in 737 and, according to legend, came to house the oak cross that Pelayo carried in the Battle of Covadonga.
With such antiquity, it is most likely that this is the oldest Christian temple in all of Spain, although it was destroyed during the Civil War, and had to be raised again in 1950.
Church of San Juan
Located in Santianes de Pravia, it is another of the oldest buildings, since it is estimated that it was erected in 780, during the mandate of the king Silo. In origin it was of greater size, and at the moment only some original parts of the central nave and the lateral walls are conserved, as well as small windows and parts of some columns.
As a curiosity, it is worth commenting that a famous theological debate took place here between Beato de Liébana and Elephanto de Toledo, whose central theme was Adoptionism, and which was quite relevant at the time.
Photo Church of San Juan via Wikimedia Commons
Basilica of San Julián de los Prados
Also known as Santuyano church, it was built during the reign of Alfonso II in Oviedo, but the exact date is unknown. Nevertheless, it is estimated that it would be finished in the first third of the 9th century, and is one of the most representative works of Asturian art of this time.
But it is not only the architectural side that stands out here, but also the pictorial complex of its interior is the most striking of its time in all of Western Europe in terms of extension and conservation. Since 1917 it is an Historic Artistic Monument and in 1998 it was declared a World Heritage Site.
Photo San Julián de los Prados via Wikimedia Commons
Santa María del Naranco
This construction already belongs to the reign of Ramiro I, approximately in the middle of century IX. The use of this building is not entirely clear, although it is clear that it is one of the most representative architectural works of the European pre-Romanesque period.
The triple arches that are on the top floor are one of the symbols of the Principality of Asturias, present in any institutional tourist claim, and the whole was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985.
Photo Santa María del Naranco via Wikimedia Commons
Church of San Miguel de Lillo
This church was built at the same time and very close to Santa María del Naranco, and it is believed that its original function was that of the Palatine church of Ramiro I. What remains today, after several landslides and reconstructions since the Middle Ages , Is estimated to be one third of the original construction, and presumably was accompanied by other buildings that completed the royal complex of Ramiro I.
Like its companion in Naranco, it was declared Patrimony of the Humanity in 1985 and, in spite of its continuous restorations, continues in risk of deterioration and collapse.
Photo San Miguel de Lillo via Wikimedia Commons
Santa Cristina de Lena
The origin of this temple is Visigoth, since it was built in the 7th century, although the current structure was built in 852. For this reason, it is strongly related to San Miguel de Lillo and Santa María del Naranco, although its location is More distant, very close to Pola de Lena.
Santa Cristina de Lena was declared Historical Artistic Monument in 1885 and, a hundred years later, next to the constructions of the Naranco, Patrimony of the Humanity.
San Salvador de Valdediós
There is no absolute certainty as to when it was built, although when it was consecrated, that it was during the reign of Alfonso III, in the year 892. In fact, it must have been a relevant event, since it gathered a multitude of bishops from different Parts of the peninsula.
Located in Villaviciosa, this church is considered one of the most important works of pre-Romanesque Asturian architecture, although it is true that elements of transition towards Romanesque art also begin to be seen. It was declared Historical Artistic Monument in 1931.
Photo San Salvador de Valdediós via Wikimedia Commons
We finish here our little tour of the most representative works of the Pre-Romanesque Asturian. They are not all that they are, but they are all that are, and we hope you liked it and aroused the interest to visit them if you do not know them yet.