Covadonga is a place for visitors, travellers and pilgrims from all over the world.

Our Asturian hosts, Sergio and Cristina, took us to see Covadonga because of its location and beautiful, natural surroundings. As we drove up the hill, the image of the Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga peering through the trees was breathtaking.

We learned that in 1777, a fire destroyed the old temple, located next to the Santa Cueva de Covadonga (Holy Cave of Covadonga). Immediately following the fire, there was an ambitious plan to have a new sanctuary built but it never got off the ground. One Century later, the project was revived by King Alfonso XII of Spain, who was interested in completing this work. Roberto Frassinelli, an artist more than architect (aka The German of Corao), devised and oversaw this new project. The design is Neo-Romanesque and broke ground in 1877 and completed in 1901.

Our first stop was the Santa Cueva de Covadonga (Holy Cave of Covadonga) whose origins are linked to the Battle of Covadonga and the beginning of the Asturian Monarchy, which established the first Christian Kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula. There are many contraversial stories floating around including one where this Holy Cave was originally a gathering place of Pagan Cult (a fountain and cave together where assumed to be holy sites).

According to Christian tradition, Pelagius (Pelayo) ran into the cave while chasing a criminal. In the cave, Pelagius meets a hermit who was admiring the Virgin Mary. The hermit asked Pelagius to forgive the criminal, since the criminal had asked the Virgin for protection. The hermit also said that one day, Pelagius would need to seek shelter in the Cave. Thus follows the story of the miraculous intervention of the Virgin Mary which was crucial in the victory against the Muslims.

According to Muslim stories about the Battle of Covadonga, Pelagius’s forces fled to this cave, feeding on honey bees left in the crevices of the rock.

Historians have credited The Battle of Covadonga as the catalyst in the Reconquista (reconquest) of Christian rule over the entire peninsula.

On our next visit to Asturias, we will make sure to visit the glacial lakes of Covadonga (Lake Enol and Lake Ercina – aka Los Lagos) which are supposed to be in the original center of the Picos de Europa National Park, created in 1918.

Nevertheless, Covadonga is a spectacular village, grouped together with a number of outstanding elements: the Santa Cueva de Covadonga (Holy Grotto) – housing the statue of the Virgin Mary, the Basilica, the Museum, the seat of the Choir, the Canons’ and the Abbot’s residences, and the Gran Hotel Pelayo, which is over a hundred years old.


A view from inside the cave

Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga

Plaque on wall outside the basilica

Santa Cueva de Covadonga

Virgen de Covadonga

Pelayo's tomb

Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga

view from outside the basilica

Inside the cave of the Virgin of Covadonga

Entrance to Basílica de Santa María

Monument in memory of Pelagius (Pelayo)

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