First impressions of Oviedo are that it is a real gem of a small city. There are lots of elegant 19th century buildings and a sprinkling of historic old structures , not least the beautiful Cathedral of San Salvador . There is a definite ” old money ” feel about the place , much like my favourite Spanish city San Sebastian. It is extremely clean ( it’s renowned for this apparently ) and very pedestrian friendly. I had a wander around this morning and noticed the abundance of statues. Someone in authority definitely has a statue fetish as there seemed to be one around every corner and there were lots in the park , including one of an Argentinian cartoon character that was perched on a bench. Just opposite the main park I stumbled across a statue of Woody Allen and my wackiness barometer was going off the scale. I had a look in the guide book and it seems he has had a bit of a love affair with the city having used it as one of the locations for his film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. He is quoted as saying that Oviedo is “a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, lovely, tranquil and pedestrianised city. It’s like it doesn’t belong to this world , as if it did not exist.Oviedo is like a fairytale”. No wonder they built him a statue !
After lunch I headed for the Cathedral to pick up a Credential ( the Pilgrims Passport that allows you to stay at the Refugios/Albergues ) . I went to one of the side chapels where I put 5 euros in the candle box and so many of the electronic candles lit up the whole chapel was illuminated. I said a few prayers for my knee joints , for safe passage to Santiago and for Mum and Dad ( who has heart surgery pending ) . I then took a tour with one of those hand held devices. I was particularly interested in seeing the Camara Santa ( The Holy Chamber ) where the relics are stored. It contains The Arca Santa ( the ” Holy Ark ” or chest ) . This is an oak reliquary covered in silver gilt and is reputed to contain a piece of the true cross , pieces from the crown of thorns and the Holy Sepulchre , some bread from the last supper and some of the Virgin’s breast milk ! As well as this the Chamber contained The Sudarium of Oviedo or Shroud of Oviedo . This bloodstained cloth is reputed to be the cloth wrapped around the head of Jesus after he died. Relic Central you might say.
From the Cathedral I took a taxi to a site about 3 km outside the city to view the ancient churches of Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo . These are pre-Romanesque ( pre-Norman to us ) churches built between 842 and 850 and it is a UNESCO world heritage site as they are considered to be some of the most significant buildings of this age in Europe. If they were in England they’d be thronged with people and have a visitor centre. I saw three other people in he hour or so I spent there.