The Origin of Spain : Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of Asturias

The Origin of Spain : Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of Asturias

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This is San Miguel de Lillo, a small church quietly standing at the foot of a mountain. It was built in the 9th century. In the Asturias region of north-western Spain are 6 monumental buildings including this church that are inscribed as World Heritage.

This old church played an important role in the history of Spain and is greatly treasured by the Spanish people. Catholic traditions were upheld in this region and from this place turbulent years of change altered the course of Spanish history.

In 711 the Iberian Peninsula was taken over by the Muslims. Only the Asturias region managed to escape Islamic occupation. Christians were cornered into this cave and fought off a large army of Muslims for the first time. This cave is where Christians started to fight back against the Muslim occupation and later developed into the Spanish Reconquista, a movement to recapture the nation.

Many people still come to this cave church to pray. This is the grave of a Goth noble, Pelayo, who led the Christian resistance. Here in this mountain region, Pelayo defeated the Muslim army and founded the Kingdom of Asturias.

Oviedo became the capital of the Asturias Kingdom. Surrounded by hostile Muslim-occupied lands, the town preserved and maintained their Christian faith and values. A defensive wall was built to keep the Muslims out. Remains of the wall can still be seen in the town.

The Reconquista movement gained momentum. The Asturias Kingdom expanded to become the Kingdom of León -Castilla in the 11th century and continued to reclaim more Spanish territory. Their objective was to free the city of Toledo again.

Before the Islamic takeover, the Catholic archdiocese was seated in Toledo. Toledo was a central part of Spanish Catholicism and regaining this city was of great importance to Spanish Christians.

In Toledo Cathedral, a special kind of Mass ritual by Mozarabs has been passed down from generation to generation and is still conducted here. Mozarabs are those Christian families who rigorously kept their faith despite Muslim domination for numerous generations. Toledo was finally returned back into Christian hands due to the assistance of the Mozarabs.

After the fall of Toledo, the Kingdom of Spain was formed. Granada was the only remaining occupied region. Following the eventual surrender of Granada in 1492, Reconquista was finally complete.

Since the first victory at the cave, it was a long fight for freedom that lasted for some 770 years. This Cathedral was built during the period when Spain was only the small Kingdom of Asturias. Unique architectural styles unaffected by Islamic influence can be found here. This architectural style is known as Pre-Romanesque and is characterized by the simple building structure and distinctive decoration style on the columns.

It was a prelude to the latter-day Romanesque style that became the main structural style of European Cathedrals. This place is considered to be the Spanish sacred point of origin, where people fought against Islamic invasion and started their movement to regain their land.

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