Monuments of Oviedo 
and the Kingdom of the Asturias (1985, 1998)

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Spain 2001. Monuments of Oviedo. La Foncalada.

In the 9th century the flame of Christianity was kept alive in the Iberian peninsula in the tiny Kingdom of the Asturias. Here an innovative pre-Romanesque architectural style was created that was to play a significant role in the development of the religious architecture of the peninsula. Its highest achievements can be seen in the churches of Santa María del Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo, Santa Cristina de Lena, the Cámara Santa and San Julián de los Prados, in and around the ancient capital city of Oviedo. Associated with them is the remarkable contemporary hydraulic engineering structure known as La Foncalada. 
  • Spain 2001. Monuments of Oviedo. La Foncalada. 

In 1998 the property was extended to include also the "Churches of the Kingdom of the Asturias". 

Oviedo is a city in northwestern Spain, capital of the autonomous region of Asturias, near Gijón. Oviedo is famed as the site of several medieval churches and a cathedral, Sancta Ovetensis. Begun in 1388, the cathedral contains the royal Asturian tombs. The city is also the site of the University of Oviedo (1608) and an archaeological museum. Founded about the middle of the 8th century, Oviedo reached the height of its importance during the 9th century, when it was the capital of the kingdom of Asturias. Oviedo was sacked by the French during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), and was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). 
  • Spain 1961. Church of Santa Maria de Naranco. Eastern façade, a fine example of Asturian Architecture. 

Spain 1961. Oviedo. Church of Santa Maria de Naranco.

In 1961 Spain celebrated the 1200th anniversary of the city of Oviedo, by issuing this set of six stamps, that comprises also the above stamp featuring the church of Santa Maria de Naranco. 

Spain 1961. Oviedo. King Fruela I of Asturia. Spain 1961. Oviedo. The Angel's Cross from 808. Spain 1961. Oviedo. King Alfonso II (770-842). Spain 1961. Oviedo. King Alfonso III (848-912). Spain 1961. Oviedo. Apostle bronzes from the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo.
Spain 1995. Stamp showing The Kingdom of the Asturias.

The Kingdom of Asturias was the earliest Christian political entity to be established in the Iberian peninsula after the collapse of the Visigothic Kingdom under the twin pressure of internal conflict and external forces, where an Islamic contingent, the Moors, arrived in 711 as the foreign support for one of the visigothic court factions, challenging the authority of the reignant monarch, Rodrigo. 

  • Spain 1995. On this stamp, that really belongs to the page about The Route of Santiago de Compostela, I have encircled the Kingdom of the Asturias, bordering the Bay of Biscay on the north. The stamp is largely oversized for a better view. 


The kingdom was established by a nobleman, Pelayo, who rebelled against the Moorish governor of Asturias in 718. Not long afterwards, he inflicted a crushing defeat on the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga, an event that probably took place in the summer of 722, although some sources place it as early as in 718 and others in 721. At some point, Pelayo was elected king of a small realm that included a mountainous area along the northwestern part of Spain, just west of the Basques, who also stayed independent of Islam. 

Spain 1997. Oviedo. Church of Santa Cristina de Lena. Spain 1990. Oviedo. Church of San Miguel de Lillo. Spain 1997. Oviedo. Church of San Julián de los Prados.

This Kingdom is the birthplace of one of the most outstanding European Medieval Architectural styles: Asturian Pre-Romanesque. This small Kingdom was a milestone on the fight against Adoptionist heresy,  with Beato de Liébana as a major figure. In times of Alfonso II, the shrine of Santiago was "found." The pilgrimage to Santiago, Camino de Santiago -- see the below link to "Route of Santiago de Compostela -- was a nexus with Europe (specially with the Franks). 

In present-day Spain the designation of "Asturias" is still connected with the Royal House. The Spanish Crown Prince, Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, officially became heir to the throne on his 18th birthday, and received the official title of Principe de Asturias (a Spanish equivalent to the British title of "Prince of Wales"). 

At the occasion of the Crown Prince's wedding in 2004 to Miss Letizia Ortíz, the Spanish Post Office issued the two below stamps, addressed in the four different Spanish languages (Castilian, Catalan, Gallego (Galician), and Euskera (Basque). 

Spain 2004. Philatelic celebration of Crown Prince Felipe's wedding to Letizia Ortiz. Stamp #1. Spain 2004. Philatelic celebration of Crown Prince Felipe's wedding to Letizia Ortiz. Stamp #2.

Asturias is one of the Celtic regions of Spain, along with Galicia and Cantabria. It has its own language, a loosely collected family of dialects that predates Castillian Spanish, called Bable For example, in Bable, the name of the kingdom is Asturies, and its two major cities, Oviedo, and Gijon, are called Uviéu and Xixón, respectively. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Spain (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Spain-section, for further information on the individual properties. 

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Revised 19 jul 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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