Oviedo Historic Architecture, Oviedo

Oviedo Historic Architecture (Self Guided), Oviedo

The north Spanish region of Asturias and particularly its capital city, Oviedo, have long been noted for their unique architecture. The medieval part of town, whose ancient walls are still largely intact, contains some truly priceless relics. Among them is a well called La Foncalada, a fascinating example of an effective hydraulic system, dating back to the first half of the 9th century, based on an even older, Roman technology.

During the 9th century, the then small kingdom, Asturias gave rise to an innovative Pre-Romanesque architectural style that was to play a significant role in the development of religious architecture throughout the Iberian peninsula. Indeed, the majority of notable historic buildings here are religious ones, such as the Church of San Tirso and the San Julian de los Prados Basilica, popularly known as “Santullano”, constructed from 791-842. The later temples, like the Gothic San Salvador Cathedral from the 15th century, serve as an illustration of how Christianity has persisted in northern Spain ever since that early period.

Among other representative examples is The Archaeological Museum of Asturias, located in the 16th-century cloister of the Benedictine monastery of Saint Vicente, the San Pelayo Convent, and other religious and secular locations.

The cultural heritage and layout of Oviedo still faithfully reflect its original urban plan. Some of the local architectural monuments have been around for so long that they bore witness to Oviedo’s heyday during the Middle Ages. If you wish to see the most prominent of them and appreciate the town in its entirety, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Oviedo Historic Architecture Map

Guide Name: Oviedo Historic Architecture
Guide Location: Spain » Oviedo (See other walking tours in Oviedo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Casa Consistorial de Oviedo (Oviedo Town Hall )
  • Iglesia de San Isidoro (San Isidoro Church)
  • Palacio de los Condes de Toreno (Palace of the Counts of Toreno)
  • Capilla de la Balesquida (Balesquida Chapel)
  • Palacio de Valdecarzana-Heredia (Valdecarzana-Heredia Palace)
  • Cathedral of San Salvador
  • Iglesia de San Tirso (Church of Saint Thyrsus)
  • Corrada del Obispo (Bishop's Run Square)
  • Archaeological Museum of Asturias
  • Monasterio de San Vicente (San Vicente Monastery)
  • Monasterio de San Pelayo (San Pelayo Convent)
  • Fuente de Foncalada (Foncalada Fountain)
  • San Julián de los Prados Church
Casa Consistorial de Oviedo (Oviedo Town Hall )

1) Casa Consistorial de Oviedo (Oviedo Town Hall )

The town administration of Oviedo, formed shortly after the creation of Oviedo municipality (by the royal decree of Fuero de Oviedo) in the mid 12th century, originally met inside the Church of San Tirso. As the importance of the municipality grew, the authorities sought to have a designated building that would serve their needs. Pursuant to this objective, in 1622, they commissioned architect Juan de Naveda to design a town hall.

The current building was constructed on the remains of the ancient city walls and the Puerta de Cimadevilla (Cimadevilla Gate). The latter now acts as a passage underneath the Town Hall's central clock tower. In 1671, the construction was finished. In 1780, the Town Hall underwent its first extensive renovation, carried out by Francisco Pruneda.

During the Spanish Civil War, in the 1930s, the building suffered serious damage amid a widespread destruction of the entire neighborhoods of Uviéu, during which time the municipal government moved out into the Palace of the Duque del Parque. After the war, in 1940, the Town Hall was rebuilt by architect Gabriel de la Torriente, who, among other elements, added the clock tower.

Presently, the Town Hall represents a beautiful gallery comprising 13 arches, decorated with moldings and pilasters, and is included in the list of Oviedo's architectural heritage.
Iglesia de San Isidoro (San Isidoro Church)

2) Iglesia de San Isidoro (San Isidoro Church)

Located in Plaza de la Constitución, which is the square adjacent to the Town Hall, the church of San Isidoro el Real is a “Bien de Interés Cultural” (Asset of Cultural Interest). The temple was begun in the late 16th century, as part of the Jesuits of San Matías college, and was finally completed and consecrated only in 1681.

Throughout the construction that lasted almost a century, the project was headed by several architects. The most prominent of them was Francisco Menéndez Camina, responsible for the Baroque-style façade and most of the interior. The original design was done by Juan de Tolosa. The belfry and the apse are attributed to the 18th-century architect, Francisco de la Riva. As for the last phase of the project, during which the chapel of the School of Mary was constructed, in 1745 (now gone), it was carried out by Pedro Antonio Menéndez.

The Neoclassic temple stands on the site of another, old Romanesque church, which was also dedicated to San Isidoro. In keeping with the Jesuit typology, the building has a Latin-cross plan with a single nave, four sections with open and interconnected side chapels, and a single external bell tower (although, initially, the design implied two towers, which didn't materialize because of the lack of funds).

The transept, not very prominent, is covered with a dome. On the façade, inside the niches, there are sculptures of San Isidoro, San Antonio de Padua, and Archangel San Gabriel.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Palacio de los Condes de Toreno (Palace of the Counts of Toreno)

3) Palacio de los Condes de Toreno (Palace of the Counts of Toreno)

The Palace of the Counts of Toreno is a Historic-Artistic Monument and one of the main examples of Baroque-style architecture in Oviedo.

This palace was built between 1673 and 1675 to a design by architect Gregorio de la Roza, who was commissioned to the job by the Malleza Doriga family. In 1786, José María Queipo de Llano y Ruiz de Saravia, 7th Count of Toreno and the former Prime Minister of Spain (in 1835), was born here.

The most distinctive features of this building are the asymmetrical, ashlar facade and the portal with columns and blazons arranged on each side of the central balcony, with openings in the form of arrow slits. Inside, there is a patio with Tuscan columns, as well as a monumental stone staircase on the right.

From 1958 to 1987, the palace housed the headquarters of the Provincial Public Library (together with the Library Coordination Center and the Provincial Historical Archive). Currently, it houses the headquarters of the Royal Institute of Asturian Studies.
Capilla de la Balesquida (Balesquida Chapel)

4) Capilla de la Balesquida (Balesquida Chapel)

Capilla de la Balesquida, sitting on the side of Plaza de Alfonso II el Casto, in front of the Cathedral, is a small chapel dedicated to the Virgen de la Esperanza (Virgin of Hope). The chapel was founded in 1232 as the seat of the Balesquida brotherhood of tailors, named so for their benefactor, the local noblewoman, Doña Velasquita (or Balesquida) Giráldez. The affiliation with tailors is evident from the depiction of a pair of scissors on the corner balcony.

The chapel's current Baroque-style appearance, preceded by several reconstructions, emerged in 1725. Later, in 1876, there was another major reconstruction, as stated by the plaque outside the chapel. The most recent remodeling – which fundamentally affected the chapel's interior layout – took place in 1952.

Dominating the interior are three altars, dating from the 17th century. The main one has in its central niche the sculpture of the Virgen de la Esperanza. Topping the altarpiece is the relief representing the Holy Spirit. There's also another sculpture of the Virgin, from the 18th century, flanked by two angels. The Virgin's lavish attire has been donated, over the years, by numerous devotees including, primarily, the tailors' brotherhood themselves.

The altarpiece on the gospel side is dedicated to San Judas Tadeo (attesting to which is the 18th-century wooden statue of the saint). The third altarpiece is dedicated to San Bernardo de Claraval.

Two paintings within the chapel depict the moments of the life of San Bernardo, namely: his appointment as abbot of Claraval, and The Virgin Mary, San Benito and San Lorenzo interceding for his health. In the second section of the nave you can see a relief, made in polychrome wood, featuring the appearance of crucified Jesus to San Bernardo.

On a ledge in the presbytery, in a prominent place, stands another wooden sculpture, an early Gothic carving from the 13th century, featuring the Virgin with Child. The chapel also contains the Gold Medal awarded by the City Council, in 1952.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Palacio de Valdecarzana-Heredia (Valdecarzana-Heredia Palace)

5) Palacio de Valdecarzana-Heredia (Valdecarzana-Heredia Palace)

The Valdecarzana-Heredia palace, a large palatial complex in Plaza de la Catedral, was built between 1627 and 1629 by Don Diego de Miranda. It was designed as the seat for the Miranda family, one of the greatest lineages in the Principality of Asturias. As such, the palace occupies a privileged location, near the Cathedral, attesting to the family's dignified social status and economic and political power.

The house is a pure example of Baroque style. It follows the model of free-standing palaces with a cubic floor plan structured around a large central patio. The three-storey structure is very sober in appearance and consists of simple lines, creating a firm impression of stability.

Its bare western façade, of solid stonework, was once flanked by two four-storey towers, of which only one remains today. Here, you can see the Miranda family coat of arms with the crown of the Marquis of Valdecarzana. The eastern façade of the palace also features elaborate stonework and has, on its second floor, the coat of arms of the Miranda and Ponce de León. The second floor windows are accentuated with wrought iron balconies.

At the end of the 18th century, the Heredia family, the new owners of the palace, reformed the property, endowing its courtyard with the current southern façade, and demolishing the tower on that side along with the garden. Here, over the entrance, you can see the Heredia coat of arms, featuring Hercules fighting the Nemean lion, along with a figurehead featuring the inscription in the form of a diadem, dated 1774.

The seven balconies that open onto the main patio have a lowered arch and present artistic and molded finishes, with scallops and masks.
Cathedral of San Salvador

6) Cathedral of San Salvador (must see)

Alfonso II, king of Asturias, discovered the supposed tomb of Saint James the Greater in the town of Compostela in the eighth century. During his reign, Alfonso II built the Holy Chamber, Alfonso's chapel, and the treasury for the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo, Asturias region of northern Spain.

The Cathedral of San Salvador, also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Saviour, is a Roman Catholic Church and a basilica in the center of Oviedo. Today, it features many architectural styles, from Pre-Romanesque to Baroque, including Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance elements.

The Holy Chamber is a two-story pre-Romanesque structure built on a rectangular plan. It serves as the treasury of the new cathedral of San Salvador. Royal burials are on the ground floor. The upper floor holds a collection of relics and royal treasures.

The aisle of the upper floor of the Chamber has twelve Romanesque columns depicting the apostles. The columns support the barrel vault roof. The Romanesque Old Tower belfry is raised by the addition of an arched gallery with a ribbed vault. There is evidence of a Romanesque cloister, replaced by the Gothic cloister of today.

In the late Middle Ages, the Oviedo Cathedral underwent so many changes that it became a new cathedral complex. Pre-Romanesque basilica and its environs were replaced. Gothic elements prevailed in the chapter room, cloister, master chapel, aisles, facade, and tower.

The church has three naves and side chapels, a transept, and a Renaissance ambulatory. The cathedral roof is supported by tall columns decorated with plant motifs. The altarpiece tells the story of Christ in Flemish-Gothic style pictures. The chapel of King Casto holds a pantheon for deceased Asturian royalty.

There is an old saying in Asturia: "Whoever goes to Santiago and not to the Savior, visits the servant and leaves the master." The master, of course, is the Cathedral of San Salvador.
Iglesia de San Tirso (Church of Saint Thyrsus)

7) Iglesia de San Tirso (Church of Saint Thyrsus)

The original Church of San Tirso, built by Tioda, the royal architect of Alfonso II of Asturias, back in the 790s, served as a royal chapel. Over the centuries, it has endured numerous modifications.

The building was completely transformed at the end of the 12th century, during the Romanesque period, and then in the 14th century when a large part of it was rebuilt. The Great Fire of Oviedo in 1521 nearly totally destroyed the temple. Another round of alterations followed in the 18th century, and the most recent one occurred during the 20th century, ultimately removing most of the original features, except for the front wall of the apse and a triplet round-arched window in the rectangular sanctuary.

The rectangular interior has three naves (one central and two lateral) divided by pillars that support semicircular arches. Found inside these naves are the chapel of Santa Ana (to the south, added in the 16th century), the main altarpiece (in front) and, on the north side, a lateral corridor. The church has three floors, two of which are underground.

The interior is crowned with a Gothic ribbed vault that rests upon the corbels with angels supporting shields. In the easternmost bay, owing to the smaller span, the arch was made sufficiently pointed to raise its crown to the same height as the others.

Highlights of the main chapel's altarpiece include the image of the Assumption, the sculpture of San Tirso by Antonio Borja, a Pieta, the altarpiece of Christ, and the triptychs by Francisco Reiter.

Located inside the church is also the tomb of Balesquita Giráldez, founder of the Balesquida Chapel.

The Church of San Tirso has been listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest since 1931.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Corrada del Obispo (Bishop's Run Square)

8) Corrada del Obispo (Bishop's Run Square)

Corrada del Obispo is a square in the historic district of Oviedo. It is surrounded by the Episcopal Palace, Cloister of the Cathedral of Oviedo and Casa del Deán Payarinos. These buildings make part of the city architectural heritage and turn the Corrada del Obispo square into valuable cultural object. The square received its current appearance in 1900, when the Deán Payarinos house was founded.

Episcopal Palace : The current palace dates from the 1940s after the previous one was burned and ruined during the Asturias Revolution of 1934 . The reconstruction maintained the appearance and physiognomy of the previous one and onlythe portal adorned with four coats of arms of different prelates from Oviedo was preserved from the original 16th century palace .

Cloister of the Cathedral of Oviedo : At the beginning of the 18th century , the cathedral chapter decided to add a floor to the gothic cloister of the cathedral. The architect in charge of the work was Francisco de la Riva Ladrón de Guevara who executed it between 1730 and 1733 . On the façade over the Corrada del Obispo, a Baroque -style palatial façade was built with a large door, known as Puerta de la Limosna , flanked by double Tuscan columns. The upper floor of the cloister houses the Museum of the Church of Oviedobeing the end of the cultural tour of the museum, which includes a visit to the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo , precisely in the Puerta de la Limosna.

Casa del Deán Payarinos : It was ordered to be built in 1900 by the dean of the cathedral Benigno Rodríguez Pajares, popularly known as Deán Payarinos, and designed by the architect Juan Miguel de la Guardia in a modernist style . The façade of the original building remains, having completely rebuilt the interior. It has two bodies with projecting balconies and an upper balustrade, the corners being rounded and occupied by two viewpoints. It houses the Oviedo Professional Conservatory of Music and the Eduardo Martínez Torner Superior Conservatory of Music .
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Archaeological Museum of Asturias

9) Archaeological Museum of Asturias

The Archaeological Museum of Asturias in Oviedo is housed in the 16th-century cloister of the former Benedictine monastery of San Vicente. The monastery has a complex history closely linked to the origin of the city itself.

The monastery was established in 761, during the reign of Fruela I. To date, only a few remnants of its original building have survived. Among them is the cloister, declared a national monument in 1934. Begun in the 1530s, under the direction of master builder Juan de Badajoz el Mozo (“the Younger”), it was completed by Juan de Cerecedo el Viejo (“the Elder”) and Juan de Cerecedo el Mozo (“the Younger”) in the 1570s.

The museum has occupied the cloister since 1952. Dedicated to recounting the history of the Asturian region, its permanent collection includes findings spanning from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. In 1998, in view of the deficient state of the museum building, the Ministry of Culture commenced proceedings for its rehabilitation and expansion. During those works, the discovery of a bastion, believed to be part of the ancient wall erected during the time of Alfonso II of Asturias, in the 8th century, was made.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Monasterio de San Vicente (San Vicente Monastery)

10) Monasterio de San Vicente (San Vicente Monastery)

Upon its foundation in the 8th century, the church and the monastery of San Vicente gave rise to the city of Oviedo.

According to the document of 781, known as the Pacto monástico de Oviedo ("Monastic Pact of Oviedo"), the monks Maximus and Fromestano arrived and settled in a place called Oueto in 761, where, together with their followers, they built a basilica dedicated to San Vicente, a deacon and martyr of Valencian origin. Between 969 and 978, the Monastery of San Vicente accepted the rule of San Benito (Saint Benedict) and its 26 inhabitants formed the original nucleus of the future city. Thus, Fromestano and Maximo are rightfully regarded as the founders of both the church and the city of Oviedo.

Initially Romanesque in style, the monastery was rebuilt extensively throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, and then later, on numerous occasions, to such an extent that the elements of its original structure were disseminated and lost.

The Romanesque cloister was replaced with a new one, created in the early 16th century by both Juan de Badajoz Senior and Junior. The Gothic-Renaissance cloister (now home to the Archaeological Museum of Asturias, since 1952) is formed on its ground level by a group of twenty arched vaults. On its upper floor, added in the middle of the 16th century, featuring Plateresque style, are the columns with capitals and footings decorated with masks and medals.

Thanks to the support of the Asturian royalty and local nobility, the monastery remained the richest and most influential in Asturias up until its dissolution in 1836. Today, the basilica of San Vicente is the only part of the monastery that is still in the hands of the church, owned by the Parish of Santa María la Real de la Corte.

Inside the temple there are two ancient baptismal fonts recovered during excavations in the sacristy, carried out in 1970. One of them is round in shape and the other, the most interesting, is rectangular, made of lustrous marble, with edges decorated in a bevelled floral pattern clearly reminiscent of the Roman tradition. Held in the sacristy of the church, it is considered one of the first existing immersion baptismal fonts found on the Iberian Peninsula.

The monastery was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in March 1962, although its cloister had already enjoyed such recognition since 1934.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Monasterio de San Pelayo (San Pelayo Convent)

11) Monasterio de San Pelayo (San Pelayo Convent)

The Convent of San Pelayo (Saint Pelagius) is a Catholic nunnery of the Benedictine order, also known as the convent of the pelayas. It was founded by King Alfonso II of Asturias (“the Chaste”), and was initially dedicated to Saint John the Baptist; later it was rededicated to Saint Pelayo, the martyr, whose relics were supposedly acquired by the convent in 994.

The convent sits near the Cathedral of Oviedo. Recent studies suggest that the original basilica on this site was built as early as the 9th century, making it contemporary to the other well-known structures of the period of reign of Alfonso II, such as the churches of San Tirso or San Julián de los Prados. It is believed to have been built under the patronage of Teresa Ansúrez, widow of King Sancho I of León.

The convent complex was largely remodeled after the 16th century, during which period it had lost most of its original Romanesque elements, including the church designed in 1590 by Leonardo de la Cajiga. In 1650 it had its first major addition, the towers, constructed by Melchor Velasco. At the end of the 17th century, it was rebuilt once again, this time to a design by Gregorio Roza, Francisco de la Riva and Gaspar Ladrón de Guevara, renowned architects who gave the property its current appearance. The last round of reconstruction, begun in 1703, included the erection of the vicarage with an imposing façade, created by Fra Pedro de Cardeña.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Fuente de Foncalada (Foncalada Fountain)

12) Fuente de Foncalada (Foncalada Fountain)

A remarkable piece of hydraulic engineering of the late Middle Ages (based on the earlier Roman models), that is still in working order, La Foncalada is a drinking fountain, located on the street of the same name. The word foncalada derives from the Latin “fontem calatam” (which means invoked source).

Rectangular in shape, approximately 4 meters (13 feet) wide, the fountain was erected over a spring as a pavilion with a gabled roof. It has a central opening as a door and semicircular arch with perfect voussoirs framing it.

The fountain was erected in the 9th century by order of the Asturian king Alfonso III, and was originally located near the city walls, next to an ancient Roman road that used to link the north and south parts of the region, passing in front of the church of San Julián de los Prados.

The very first documentary record of this fountain dates back to the late 11th century. According to recent archaeological findings, it most likely was part of a monumental bath complex, endowed with an important religious meaning, associated with the potentially healing water, and Jesus Christ, invoked as "Salvs", which is evident from the inscriptions covering the monument.

In the vertex of the pediment you can see the Victoria Cross, the royal ensign of Alfonso III, with the apocalyptic Alpha and Omega. Below the cross, there are two inscriptions translated as follows:

"With this sign the pious are protected, With this sign you shall defeat the enemy"
"Lord, put the sign of the salvation on this fountain, so as to not allow the hitting angel to enter"

The above text corresponds to the usual inscription formula found in other constructions of the Alfonso III period. There are also remnants of other inscriptions on the fountain, but the degree of their deterioration is so high that it makes it difficult to read and interpret them.

This fountain remains the only surviving Medieval piece of civil architecture in the city designed for public use, and is the oldest civil monument in continuous use in Spain. Seriously damaged during the Civil War, it was restored during the 1990s and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
San Julián de los Prados Church

13) San Julián de los Prados Church

San Julián de los Prados, also known as Santullano, is a Pre-Ramirense church, dating back to the beginning of the 9th century. It is one of the greatest works of Asturian art and was declared a Historic Monument by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in June, 1917 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on the 2nd of December, 1998. The church's construction was ordered by Alfonso II of Asturias and it was built by the court architect Tioda around 830. It is dedicated to the martyred Egyptian saints Julian and Basilissa.

The spacious church clearly displays the characteristics of its style. It is of basilica plan with a nave and two aisles separated by square piers which support semi-circular arches and with a transept of impressive height. The iconostasis, that separates the sanctuary from the rest of the church is remarkably similar in appearance to a triumphal arch. The size and originality of the church stands out and distinguishes it from works of Visigothic art. However, without doubt, that which most attracts attention to this church is the pictorial decoration, with aniconic frescoes (stucco, very well executed), painted in three layers, with architectural decoration that bears clear Roman influences. Although it appears more a monastic rather than a royal church, a gallery was reserved for the king in the transept. Of the three original entrances to the church, two have been filled in.

The only sculptural decoration that has survived to the present day is that of the marble capitals on which rest the semi-circular arches. There are also two marble flagstones with hexagonal geometric figures and floral motives that are found in the central chapel. The pictorial decoration is the most important element that can be seen in the church. It is without doubt the most important of its time, in its extent and conservation as much as in the variety of icons represented, in all of Western Europe.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Oviedo, Spain

Create Your Own Walk in Oviedo

Create Your Own Walk in Oviedo

Creating your own self-guided walk in Oviedo is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Oviedo Public Art Walking Tour

Oviedo Public Art Walking Tour

Public art adds a great deal of vibrancy and character to the cityscape of Oviedo, Spain, reflecting, among other things, its contemporary spirit. From the bustling Plaza Trascorrales to the serene Plaza Porlier De Oviedo, numerous sculptures have long become an integral part of the neighborhood, captivating passers-by in their numbers.

In Plaza Trascorrales, sculptures like The Fishwife and...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Oviedo Introduction Walking Tour

Oviedo Introduction Walking Tour

The Kingdom of Asturias began in 720, with the Visigothic revolt against Muslim rule led by the nobleman Pelagius. At that time, the city of Oviedo did not exist. Two monks, Maximo and Fromestano, founded the city in 761. They built a small church for Saint Vincent on a bare hillside, and from this seed, Oviedo grew.

After Pelagius died in 737, King Alfonso I founded a dynasty in Oviedo that...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles