History and museums
The Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Saviour or Cathedral of San Salvador (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Salvador, Latin: Sancta Ovetensis) is a Roman Catholic cathedral and minor basilica in the centre of Oviedo, in the Asturias region of northern Spain.
The Cathedral of San Salvador of Oviedo today displays an array of architectural styles, from Pre-Romanesque to Baroque, including Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance parts. It began as a large Pre-Romanesque basilica in the present location of the Gothic cathedral, but nothing more is known about that first building, built by order of King Alfonso II of Asturias.
The Cathedral was founded by King Fruela I of Asturias in 781 AD, and enlarged in 802 by his son Alfonso II of Asturias known as Alfonso the Chaste, who made Oviedo the capital of Kingdom of Asturias, and resided in Oviedo with his court. He created the See of Oviedo in 810. The present edifice was begun by Bishop Gutierre of Toledo in 1388, and the tower added by Cardinal Francisco Mendoza de Bobadilla in 1528.
The Cathedral was restored in the 12th century by Archbishop Pelagius of Oviedo, the chronicler. Bishop Fernando Alfonso (1296–1301) undertook another restoration of the chapter-house, and his successor, Fernando Alvarez (1302–1321), began the cloister. At the end of the 13th century Gutierre de Toledo began the new Gothic basilica, the principal chapel bearing his arms, though it was completed by his successor Guillén. Diego Ramirez de Guzmán (1421–41) built the two chapels of the south transept (now replaced by the sacristy), the old entrance to the church, and the gallery of the cloister adjoining the chapter-house. Alonzo de Palenzuela (1470–85) completed the other part of the transept. Juan Arias (1487–97) left his cognizance, the fleur-de-lys and four scallops, on the nave. Juan Daza (1497–1503) erected the grille of the choir; Valerano (1508–12) added the stained-glass windows. Diego de Muros, founder of the great college at Salamanca known as the Oviedo, had the crestings of the porch wrought by Pedro de Bunyeres and Juan de Cerecedo, while Giralte de Bruselas and Juan de Balmaseda completed in the years 1512 to 1517 the carving of the precious altarpiece ordered by Valeriano Órdoñez de Villaquirán. Cristóbal de Rojas (1546–56) affixed his coat-of-arms to the completed tower, with its octagonal pyramid, one of the marvels of Gothic architecture.
Some Romanesque features remain, such as the Southern Tower, or the upper part of the Holy Chamber, which includes a fantastic collection of Romanesque column-statues. The cathedral of San Salvador is mainly a fine Gothic building, which was built between 14th and 16th centuries in a Classic and Flamboyant Style. The Chapter Room, whose construction was started in 1388, was the first part of the new Gothic cathedral to be finished: built in a classic Gothic fashion (including a great eight-sided dome), it was followed by the cloister and the choir (ca. 1400). The naves were built once the choir was finished, all through the 15th century. We can admire the progression of the constructive stages, taking as an example the tracery of windows and tryphorium. The sanctuary is still a classical-Gothic work, whereas the naves present typical flame-like elements typical of a late-Gothic style.
The latest medieval part, the narthex, was designed by Juan de Badajoz, whose original project included a double-towered facade (though due to financial issues, only a tower was built). This western tower, one of the best examples of Flamboyant Gothic in Spain, was finished by architect Gil de Hontañón, who added to the structure an openwork spire in a modern Renaissance style. The altarpiece at the end of the choir, is also a great work of sculpture and painting in Renaissance, perhaps one of the best of Spain in its kind.
Baroque elements include some lateral private chapels (Capilla de los Vigiles), the Pantheon of Asturian Kings and the ambulatory. There are some altarpieces in a profuse baroque fashion as well.
The major restoration of the cathedral complex was initiated with preliminary studies in 1995 at the request of the Principality of Asturias. Under the sponsorship of the Spanish National Plan for Cathedrals (Spanish: Plan National de Catedrales), the complex was restored from 1998-2002 for a total budget of €764,623.55.
The cathedral was also called Sancta Ovetensis; owing to quantity and quality of relics contained in the Cámara Santa (English: Holy Chamber). The Holy Chamber is the only surviving portion of the ancient high-medieval complex. It was built to keep such relics and treasures associated with the Asturian Monarchy as the Cross of the Angels, Victory Cross, and the Agate Box or Agate Casket.
The chief feature of the cathedral is the "Camara Santa", with its venerable relics. Bishop Pelagius relates that the Agate Box, a coffer made by the disciples of the Apostles and containing the most precious relics of the Holy City, was taken from Jerusalem to Africa, and after residing in several locations was finally placed at Oviedo by Alfonso II. In the 16th century, Bishop Cristóbal de Sandoval y Rojas wished to open it, but could not, being overcome with religious fear.