Covadonga, the sanctuary of Asturias

Sky road in Covadonga

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Covadonga and its surroundings are one of the cardinal points of Asturias. This sacred place is visited very much by the faithful, tourists and mountain lovers. Here, the image of the adored Santina reposes, and she is the patron saint of the region. The road towards the Peaks of Europe or usually called the road towards heaven, makes a crossroad between the Asturian region and its landscape.


Covadonga is an important place thanks to its history. Here, an important historical event took place many years ago. In this place began the Reconquest of the territory taken in favour of the peninsula and then, the constitution of the Astur reign. With Pelayo as the head, the Arabians were humiliated and defeated. Legend has it that the astures were patiently hiding in the holes of the mountains waiting for their revenge. By the year 722 they would leave their hiding place to face their enemies and finally defeat them in the well known Battle of Covadonga. The inhabitants militia was smaller than the one of the so called “unfaithful”. The victory was comparable to an epic poem going down in the annals of history as a great victory and today can be found in all of the text books. A sculpture of Don Pelayo is placed close to the basilica, showing a resolute man, the protagonist of a period.

The old historicians said that the cult to the Santina was older than it seemed. In times of Pelayo, the virgin was very well considered and she was thought to influence in favour of the Christian victory. “Little and elegant”, as the song says ,she has had her own cave since then. Her figure sculpted on a rock is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful points to visit in Covadonga and she is visited by thousands of pilgrims in search of grace. In this quiet and intimate place, the prayers become more important than photographs or the tourist’s view.

If you are interested in entering the sacred cave you have to ascend a stair of 101 steps on which you can find other penitents who have travelled, in order, to carry out some kind of religious promise. Many of the penitents go up the stairs on their knees, praying or kissing the floor, with burning candles or with their arms crossed giving thanks and others hoping for a miracle from the virgin.

Etymologically speaking, the name Covadonga comes from the latin expression “Cova dominica” that means “Cueva de la Señora”. On October 17th of the year 1777 the sanctuary was destroyed due to a great fire. The current image of the virgin after the fire appears more gentle and less serious than the previous one, as usually said. She stands up on a stone pedestral and due to her small size and delicacy it is justified that she is called with love “la Santina”. Close to her image the remains of the king Pelayo and Alfonso I repose, and in the air we can breath the admiration felt for two important popes, Juan XXIII and Juan Pablo II that have visited this Asturian sanctuary for several times.

Just down the cave of the virgin, arises a great waterfall forming a lagoon in where all the visitors must fulfil the ritual of throwing a coin. The twinkle of the metal loses here its profitable function and it is left only as a deposit for the immaterial desires. Another popular ritual is that of the “Fuente de los siete caños” (The fountain of the seven jets) that is also situated under the cave, and over it, it is written “la virxen de Covadonga tien una fuente muy clara, la neña que de ella bebe, dentru del año se casa” (Asturian text). It is thought that the girl who can drink of the seven jets without breathing is supposed to get married in a year. So, all those that are interested in getting married soon should satiate their thirst in Covadonga.

The beautiful basilica of Covadonga was built between the years 1877 and 1901. This historical monument is considered to be one of the best examples of neoromanic architecture at the end of the 19th century, not long before, the first centenary was celebrated. The monument is visible from everywhere attracting glances and working as a powerful magnet for the human eyes. Inside, you can breath the calmness, and an immemorial organ sounds from the heights when the ceremony starts.

Until the end of the 19th century the cult was poor. Then, Covadonga was only visited by a few pilgrims during the summertime, the Novena and the festivity of the virgin on September the 8th . The sanctuary by that time had bad connections, therefore, the canons were not living there so they had to celebrate the masses in turns. Nowadays, this has changed. An ecclesiastical group keep the cult and take care of the fittings. Since then, the number of visitors has increased to the extreme exceeding the foresights.

It is true that this Real site of Covadonga offers a wealth of extraordinary beauty. This is a natural door open to the National Park of the Peaks of Europe. Only, 12 kilometres away ascending through a narrow and raised road, we reach the beautiful landscapes where the Enol lake and the Ercina are situated: The Lakes of Covadonga.

Texto: © Ramón Molleda para desdeasturias.com

Information of interest

Is a natural gateway to the National Park Picos de Europa . Only 12 km away, it upward through a narrow, steep road, you reach the beautiful places where the Lakes Enol and La Ercina: Lagos de Covadonga .