Santa María de Naranco is one of the most enigmatic and harmonious monuments in the history of western architecture. Its kind does not fit in the type for liturgical use, leading one to think in a previous civil background, the root of which – when considering the decorative and iconographic patterns and the design of the façades – seems to be found in the Late Antiquity and Paleo-Byzantine architecture of the Middle East.
Asturian chronicles are unanimous when attributing to Ramiro I (842-850) this important constructive task in mount Naranco.
Probably forming part of a larger set of buildings, destined to become the fixed or occasional residence of the promoter, it worked as a temple at least from the first years of the 12th century and until its restoration in 1929-1934. The name with the dedication to Santa María stems from the inscription of the altar recovered from within the masonry of the altarpiece/altar existing in the eastern mirador. This altar was erected in year 848.
Its perfectly symmetrical structure is made up of two floors, in turn divided into three living quarters. The lower floor, at ground level, has a central hall, flanked to the East by an underground cubicle whose initial function had to do with water storage, and to the West by a room with external access. The upper floor reproduces this triple layout, consisting in a central hall and two lateral miradors, which open to the exterior by means of large arches. Both the upper miradors and the lower hall are barrel-roofed with transverse arches. The lateral quarters of the lower floor are covered with wooden flooring. The transverse arches of the upper floor, the blind arches and the beams of the Northern and Southern façades are linked up by a wise support system, allowing the designer to open wide windows and openings in the infill wall areas.
On the Northern side is a small temple with the stairs to go up to the upper floor, equally provided with openings under stilted arches and cable moulded shafts. On the opposite façade there is a protruding mirador, with double elevation, only preserving the flooring and the supports from lower floors, together with the toothers of the two vaults roofing both floors.
The upper floor is rich in sculptural decoration that is unheard of in any other building of its time, and provided with a very notable stylistic coherence. This architectural sculpture is made up by four series of capitals, over helical or cable-moulded shafts, 32 medallions set in the spandrels of the arches of the internal and external faces, 16 rectangular plates located on the larges sides of inside the central hall, impost lines and crosses sculpted on the smaller sides, to which we should add the channelling running over all the arches and beams. The building does not show any of the architectural characteristics defining temples, except for its perfect orientation in the West-East axis. The iconography however is made up by religious patterns (crosses, prophets, individuals with full-length tunics).
Hillsides of Mount Naranco.
(3 Km from Oviedo/Uviéu).
Bus line A1 and A2. Information on timetables and stops: www.tua.es
Tel.: 985 21 26 60 (parish)
638 26 01 63 (warden).
From 1st January to 31st March and from 1st October to 31st December:
Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10:00 to 14:30 h. (last visit).
Sundays, from 10:00 to 12:30 h. (last visit).
Free entry on Monday mornings (without any guide service), from 10:00 to 12:30 h.
Closed, 1st and 6th January and 25th December. Check on timetable for the Christmas Period.
From 1st April to 30th September:
Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 09:30 to 13:00 and from 15:30 to 19:00 h. (last visit).
Sundays, from 09:30 to 13:00 h. (last visit).
Free entry on Monday mornings (without any guide service), from 10:00 to 13:00 h.
Closed: 2nd June and 8th and 21st September.
General: 3 €.
Children from 8 to 14 years old: 2 €.
Groups from 20 persons onwards: 2 €.
Check on discounts.
Free entry on Monday mornings (without any guide service).
Visits: Visits commence at Santa María del Naranco and the tickets are collected there.
On winter timetable mondays, Santa María opens on the hour and San Miguel de Lliño at half past hour, and on summer timetable Mondays, Santa María del Naranco opens half past the hour and San Miguel de Lliño on the hour.