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Covadonga is one of the most important sites in Asturias. It is home to an important religious sanctuary and is surrounded by wonderful mountain scenery. It is commonly said to be a gateway to the splendid Picos de Europa mountain range in northern Spain.
Covadonga is home to a religious sanctuary which consists of a basilica, a holy cave, a museum and a Collegiate church. The grand basilica can be seen for miles around as its two spires are distinctive and Covadonga sits half way up a mountain.
In 722 Covadonga was the scene of a historic battle as it was the first place where the Moorish invasion of Spain was resitsted and the Moors turned back. The Moors invaded Spain in 711, killed the Christian Visigoth King of Spain and quickly conquered much of Visigoth Spain. Many of the nobility fled to the mountains of Northern Spain where a man called Pelayo became leader of the resistance to the Moors.
In 722 the Arabs set forth to defeat these rebels who were using the caves of Covadonga as a base. Using the tricky terrain to help them the Christian soldiers defeated the Moors who fled and this 'Battle of Covadonga' is considered to be the beginning of the Spanish reconquista of Spain and defeat of the Muslim conquest.
Tradition has it that during the battle Pelayo retreated to a cave where a hermit had placed a statue of the Virgin Mary. Pelayo prayed to the Virgin Mary for victory and later accredited his success to her. In recognition of this King Alfonso I of Spain commanded that a chapel and monastery be built and dedicated to 'Our Lady of Covadonga'.
A fire destroyed the original shrine and in 1901 the current Basilica was built.
Visitors today can visit the beautiful basilica which is built of a lovely pink stone quarried from the local mountains. Inside the basilica is the current statue of Our Lady of Covadonga dating to the sixteenth century. There is also an impressive altar and various artworks.
Outside of the basilica is a statue of Pelayo standing in front of a cross, sword in hand. Pelayo (or Pelagius) is entombed in the holy cave as is King Alfonso I.
Also part of the Sanctuary is the Collegiate which has a cloister and houses the tombs of two 11th century Abbots.
Places to Visit Nearby
Around Covadonga is some lovely walking scenery and in the mountains above the Sanctuary are two lakes which you can reach by car. Cyclists may recognise the road leading to the lakes as it often features in the big Spanish bike ride, the Vuelta a Espana (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France).
The beautiful village of Cangas de Onis is nearby. It has a beautiful Roman bridge set with a backdrop of the Picos de Europa mountains.
If you are looking for beaches the pretty seaside resort of Llanes is nearby.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Asturias and Cantabria guide.