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Information on Oviedo
The Kingdom of Asturias began in 720, with the Visigothic aristocrat Pelagius’s (685–737) revolt against the Muslims who at the time were occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula. The Moorish invasion that began in 711 had taken control of most of the peninsula, until the revolt in the northern mountains by Pelagius. The resulting Kingdom of Asturias, located in an economically poor region of Iberia, was largely ignored by the Muslims. In 720, the area where Oviedo is now located was still uninhabited.
It is said that two monks, Máximo and Fromestano (Latin: Maximus et Fromestanus), founded the city in 761. That settlement was soon to be completed with the construction of a small church dedicated to Saint Vincent. Oviedo was established on an uninhabited hillside, with no Visigothic or Roman foundation before it became an Asturian city. Following Pelagius, who died in 737, Alfonso I (739–57) founded a dynasty that would last until 1037. The Asturian Kingdom was on hostile terms with southern Moorish Spain. In 794, Oviedo was sacked and pillaged by Caliph Hisham I in one of his numerous campaigns against the Christian kingdoms.
King Alfonso I is said to have “set in place the whole order of the Goths, as it had been in Toledo, as much in the church as in the palace.” The intention with Oviedo was to shape it into a city similar to that of Visigothic Toledo. Once kings had settled in Oviedo, they adopted as much of the architectural style and imagery of Toledo. Even with this in mind, Oviedo did not necessarily resemble the old Visigothic capital in Toledo. The churches and buildings of Oviedo follow instead late provincial Roman tradition. Since Asturias at the time was an agriculturally poor area of Spain the scale of the buildings is quite impressive.
Oviedo’s rich architectural tradition began with King Fruela I (757–768). King Fruela I of Asturias, the fourth of the Asturian monarchs, was the first decided promoter of the city as may be witnessed by his construction of both a palace and a nearby church. This church was later restored by Alfonso II. Oviedo owes to a later king, Alfonso II The Chaste (791–842), its establishment as a capital city and ruling seat as a result of the moving of the court from Pravia and the creation of the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela, a major event in the history of Oviedo, a church dedicated to The Saviour, the Cathedral of San Salvador, and a royal palace formed the nucleus of Oviedo. Also constructed during Alfonso II’s reign was the San Julian de los Prados church, which is one of the best preserved Asturian churches. Alfonso II’s successor, Ramiro I (842–850), continued Alfonso II’s construction streak. Ramiro I constructed two buildings, the Church Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo. The Church Santa Maria de Naranco was likely to originally be Ramiro I’s palace and later changed into a church. By this time the Court of the Palace was centered in Oviedo, which was the main royal residence. This court was controlled by member of the Asturian nobility.