Santa Cristina de Lena constitutes a unique case in Asturian architecture due to the complexity of its internal distribution and its floor plan. It has a single access, indicating its use by an undifferentiated community of believers, strictly dedicated to serving a monastery. The richness of the iconographic programme which can be inferred from the internal capitals and latticework contribute towards this impression, together with the technical skill of its planning, subjected to harmonious metric ratios.
Only indirect elements are available for its dating, such as the date of one of the latticework reused in the arch of triumph - year 643 -, the chronology which can be attributed to the remaining reused pieces – 7th century – and the certainty on the use the Lena master made of the Naranco elevation. All this makes it possible to propose a date around year 850 and the decades following this. The current aspect of the temple is, to a large extent, the result of the restoration performed in 1892-1893, to which the repair of the damages suffered in the Revolution of 1934 can be added.
It is a single nave building, to which four protruding bodies are attached, lined up according to the two symmetry axes, corresponding to two lateral rooms, a portico with a superimposed chamber and a raised chapel. The entire perimeter is built over a baseboard. The walls are externally made up by irregular rows of limestone slab and ashlar, reserving the stretcher and header bond ashlar masonry for the corners. The faces have regular beams running across them, together with elements joining the walls. Only two original windows are preserved, located on the Northern façade of the eastern chamber and on the northerly façade of the chapel. They are both three-light openings, with small reused columns obtained from spoliation.
Inside, the walls are joined by blind arcades running along the Northern, Southern and Eastern faces. At the central spandrels of the three arcades there are five medallions and two rectangular plates, with a palpable reminder of the upper central hall system in Santa María de Naranco.
In the eastern sector, the presbyterial space is raised and separated by a striking arch of triumph, under which the inner door can be found. It is accessed via two lateral stairways. The altar could be arranged inside the chapel, turning out to be almost invisible to the public. A tribune rises to the west, advancing over the space of the nave and taking advantage of chamber gap located over the entrance portico. Undoubtedly, this structure is the result of a constructive reform. Parallel European typologies make it possible to date the reform from the end of the 11th century onwards. All the rooms in this internal complex are barrel-roofed built out of calcareous tuff stone.
A spectacular arch of triumph with three openings was built in a second constructive stage, in front of the chapel and limiting the raised space to the West almost a meter above the level of the nave, becoming the sculptural jewel inside the temple. For its installation, a previous structure, whose remnants can be appreciated nowadays on the lateral walls, was demolished. The new arch is made up of three stilted semicircular openings, over reused columns, finishing in Corinthian capitals. Fretted latticework was placed in the arcade spandrels. Between the shafts are the boards and the central bars of the inner door, with incomplete inscriptions.
Lena. Road from Oviedo to León.
985 49 76 08 (Tourism Office) - 609 94 21 53 (warden: Inés Faes).
From December to March: Tuesdays to Sundays, from 11:00 to 13:00 h. and from 16:00 to 18:00 h.
From April to October: Tuesdays to Sundays, from 11:00 to 13:00 h. and from 16:30 to 18:30 h.
The Education Centre for Asturian Pre-Romanesque: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 10:15 to 14:00 h. Previous reservation by calling 985 49 76 08 (Tourism Office).
Closed on mondays, except 1st May.
Prices Santa Cristina de Lena:
Adults: € 1.5
Children from 12 to 17 years of age: 1 €
Children up to 11 years of age: € 0.70
Groups (+20 persons): € 1
The Education Centre for Asturian Pre-Romanesque, free entry.