|San Julián de los Prados, Oviedo|
All photos in this post 2017 Jessica Knauss
San Julián de los Prados is a pre-Romanesque gem of a church one kilometer from Oviedo's urban center. I trudged through the traffic and the rain in the cold of the early morning, suffering with my first cold of the season but determined to make my trip to Oviedo all about the early Middle Ages.
Alfonso II, known as the Chaste, also founded Oviedo Cathedral and was the first to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from here.
They don't let you take pictures inside, but I risked who knows what kind of admonishment or banishment with my silent, flash-free camera because this interior must be seen. They said it had original painting in it, but I was not prepared for the floor-to-ceiling glory of what was inside. Geometric shapes and a celestial cityscape, complete with chambers and bed linens, and color, color, color! They found these paintings underneath layers of lime-and-chalk (later centuries' hygiene methods, they said). My photos aren't exactly professional, but when you're in San Julián, you only have to use a little imagination to place yourself back in the ninth century, in contrast to most other medieval sites, where you have to use all your imagination and still can't picture it.
See the indentations in the wall above the bench and doorway? That's where the king's box would've been. It's across from the large jalousie window, which is placed exactly so that during mass, the sun shines through it with full brightness. (That's partially why there's less paint surviving on this wall.)
After all the people were settled and ready for mass, Alfonso II would appear on this balcony in his finest robes, embroidered with cloth of gold and decked out in all the jewels of the realm, surrounded by images of the celestial city, and the sun would create a spectacular scene of jaw-dropping splendor.
This was Alfonso II's public service announcement, a proclamation that he was indeed the chosen intermediary between God and the people.
This was only the beginning of the mind-blowing experiences for a medievalist in Oviedo.