|Oviedo seen from Naranco|
All photos in this post 2017 Jessica Knauss
It was November, and hadn't rained in Zamora for more than a year. Imagine my surprise when I took the bus only a few hours north to get immediately and thoroughly soaked. And I had a(nother) cold. But, as seen in this previous post, I didn't let those accidents of nature stop me.
After walking one kilometer, huffing and puffing, and being overwhelmed and thrilled with San Julián de los Prados, it was time to sit down in the nearest plaza and call a taxi. I was finally going to a place I'd always thought was in the middle of nowhere. All the photos I'd ever seen and the awe with which the buildings were described suggested they were hard to get to. As it turns out, Naranco Hill, home to two mega-important ninth-century monuments, is not even a suburb of Oviedo, capital city of Asturias. That said, it was probably two kilometers uphill, and in my weakened viral state, it was just as well I took a taxi so I could enjoy it more.
This is the first building to successfully mount a vaulted ceiling made of stone. Previous vaulted ceilings were always made of wood, a much lighter proposition. But once an architect figures out a technique for stone, even a first creation can last well over one thousand years. Other clever architectural features abound here, and it's little wonder, as this palace was built expressly to host dignitaries and grandees from near and far for policy and diplomatic meetings--and parties. It wasn't a residential palace, but a place dedicated to making an impression.
In this artist's rendition of what the palace looked like in Ramiro II's day, we're reminded that the walls were probably painted with bright colors and hung with tapestries, although some dignitaries would still have sat on the floor so as not to sit above the king. Pillows hadn't made it to this part of northern Spain before the ninth century.
It was probably a cellar. You needed to store a lot of wine to entertain that many dignitaries. The cellar also has a successful vaulted ceiling in stone. Trust me, this is impressive stuff!
In the doorway, a frieze depicting circus performers, influenced by Roman wall art via Byzantium, is unique because it's the only non-religious artwork that has been found in a church of this period.
Although not on the scale of San Julián de los Prados, there are some deteriorated paintings here that are the first depictions of the human form in Asturian wall art. They look similar to the people in mozarabic manuscripts and are probably a direct inheritance from Visigothic art.
I saw many more exciting, unique things in Oviedo. It's impossible to exhaust its medieval wonders, and if you like cider, it's absolutely the place for you! But more will have to wait for another post.
My mother has been saving and engineering ways to make money ever since I told her I was going to live in Spain, and very soon, we'll be going on a Grand Tour together. I'll have to take yet another break from the blog, though this one is excusable. See you near the end of June!