Covadonga - The Holy Cave
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map of Asturias showing location of Covadonga

Covadonga - Sanctuary of Asturian Glory
Text by: Paula Repo
Photos by: Pasi Rein

Covadonga is the heart of Asturias in a number of ways. Covadonga's Holy Cave holds the tomb of Pelayo, who in 722 won the Battle of Covadonga against the Muslim Moors, and later became the first King of Asturias. The victory of Covadonga started the so called Reconquest, a fight of some 800 years between the Muslims and Christians. During the first 200 years after the battle, Asturias was the Christian stronghold in the Iberian Peninsula.

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Closely related to the glorious past of Asturias is also Our Lady in Cave. Actually, this image of a Virgin gives Covadonga its name. The original Latin name was "Cova dominica", meaning Cave of the Lady. In the course of years, "Cova dominica" was abbreviated to Covadonga..

A view of Covadonga from highter up the mountain
Photo Above - Covadonga is located in a lush landscape between two mountains, Priena and Auseva.

The holy cavePhotos Above - (top) Below the Holy Cave is a beautiful lake. (bottom) You can attend rosaries and other services in the chapel of the Holy Cave.

The Holy Cave
Hosting the Virgin of Covadonga, the Holy Cave is the nucleus of the Covadonga Sanctuary. Bells inviting people to masses and other services are tolling hourly all day long, except during the siesta. Rosaries - vocal and silent prayers emphasizing the participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ - are held every afternoon at five in the Holy Cave.

Myths and legends about the relationship between Pelayo and Our Lady vary. Some of them tell that the Lady was in the cave before Pelayo sought refuge in it, others that Pelayo brought Her into the cave. A fact is that Pelayo built an altar to Virgin Mary in the Cave as a homage of gratitude and memory of the triumph obtained through Her.
The great devotion of Asturians to this holy place finds expression in the tombs of Pelayo, his wife Gaudiosa and his sister, as well as in the tombs of Alfonso I and his wife Hermelinda, who was Pelayo's daughter.

The original chapel in the Cave was of wood, but it burned down with everything in it, including the Virgin, in 1777. The present image, dating from the 16th century, was donated by the Chapel of Oviedo Cathedral one year later. The modern chapel represents romanesque style and was built by Luis Menendez Pidal. Below the cave lies a beautiful lake, into which people throw coins to make a wish.

Lions of stone guard the sanctuary. Candle light creates a passage to the chapel
Photo Above - (top) Two great lions on both sides of the entrance road guard the sanctuary. (bottom layer) Hundrets of candles light the passage to the chapel.

You can access the chapel by taking the steps close to the bridge with two massive marble lions guarding the entrance to the sanctuary, or through a vaulted passage starting behind the Gran Hotel Pelayo. Hundreds of candles lit by pilgrims illuminate the passage in the evening. Rich ornaments and crosses add to its warm and pious atmosphere.

The Majestic Basilica - The most glorious building in the sanctuary is the Basilica of Santa Maria la Real de Covadonga.

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This page last updated December 2009