World Heritage Sites in Oviedo

There are six World Heritage Sites in Oviedo which is an extraordinary number and during our three days we saw four of the sites. All are unmissable. They are Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo (mid 9C), San Julian de los Prados (8C-9C), the Camara Santa in the Cathedral of San Salvador (9C), the Church of Santa Cristina de Lena (850 AD), and the hydraulic system of La Foncalada (early 9C). All these buildings are in a Pre-Romanesque style of architecture, particular to Asturias, and with strong links to Classical Antiquity.

Santa Maria del Naranco

This curious building is on one of the hillsides above the town of Oviedo. King Ramiro I commissioned this building as a royal palace in 842 with a nearby church of San Miguel de Lillo as part of the royal complex. In the 10C-11C the palace was converted into the church of Santa Maria del Naranco.

The function of the building as a royal palace is clear from a side view and from the ‘balconies’ at either side. In the upper of the two levels there is a relaxed atmosphere and the views are lovely, even on a misty day.

A facade of Santa Maria del Naranco, a World Heritage Site in Oviedo
The facade facing the hillside
Balcony in Santa Maria del Naranco
One of two balconies in Santa Maria del Naranco
One balcony on the Upper Level of the palace
One balcony on the Upper Level of the palace
Another facade of Santa Maria del Naranco, a World Heritage Site in OviedoThe facade facing Oviedo
The facade facing Oviedo

San Miguel de Lillo

San Miguel de Lillo was started in 842 and consecrated in 848 by the king, Ramiro I of Asturias and his wife Paterna. Parts of the church collapsed sometime in the 11C-12C and today only the western part remains. So it was clearly a substantial building originally.

On a hillside and in the mist - San Miguel de Lillo, a World Heritage Site in Oviedo
On a hillside and in the mist – San Miguel de Lillo
Plan of the original church of San Miguel de Lillo
Plan of the original church, with today’s building in black (Wikipedia)

San Miguel was originally dedicated to St Mary, but when the palace was consecrated it was renamed San Miguel. It was under renovation when we visited and so firmly closed.

San Miguel de Lillo
San Miguel de Lillo
The Church of San Miguel de Lillo
The Church of San Miguel de Lillo

San Julian de los Prados

This church dates from 791-842 and it is apparently the largest remaining Pre-Romanesque church in Spain. It originally had four doors but only the west door remains today. The church is absolutely fascinating inside and I would have loved to photograph. However, all visits are Guided and photography is forbidden.

San Julian de los Prados, a World Heritage Site in Oviedo
San Julian de los Prados
The West Door of San Julian de los Prados

There is a wonderful article (here) which describes and illustrates a reconstruction of the frescoes inside the church. The reconstruction suggests paintings which are quite wonderful, but surprisingly ‘gaudy’.


The Santa Camara

King Alfonso II of Asturias built a palace in Oviedo which included a Chapel, The Santa Camara (9C). The Chapel also contained special reliquaries, such as the Arca Santa and the Cross of the Angels. These relics were removed from the south of Spain where the Moors were in control and where they might have been destroyed. Over time the Chapel became part of the Cathedral of San Salvador.

The Camara Santa consists of two unconnected chambers. The Upper Chamber is the small Chapel of St Michael, and the Lower Chamber is the Crypt of St Leocadia. This double-storey method of construction is similar to the structure of Santa Maria del Naranco but on a smaller scale.

Entrance to the Upper Chamber of the Camara Santa
Entrance to the Upper Chamber of the Camara Santa
Arca Santa in the Camara Santa
Arca Santa in the Camara Santa
Victory Cross (10C)
Victory Cross (10C)

The lower level of the Camara Santa is the Crypt of St Leocadia who was a Spanish martyr of the 4C from Toledo. The Romans controlled Spain at the time and Diocletian was the Roman Emperor. He was determined to wipe out Christianity, and as a result persecution of Christians was widespread and brutal.

Lower level of the Camara Santa
Lower level of the Camara Santa
Tombstones in the Crypt
Tombstones in the Crypt

Two more World Heritages Sites in Oviedo

The Foncalada is a public fountain (9C) over a spring and just outside the walls of the old city. I was in the area but somehow I missed this fountain although it is only a ten minute walk from the Cathedral Square. And Santa Cristina de Lena which is in the mountains south of Oviedo, and which looks absolutely wonderful – next time!

All these extraordinary World Heritage Sites in Oviedo are worth seeking out and I would certainly want to see them again.