Covadonga in Asturias (Spain) 720
The pilgrimage placde of Covadonga in Asturias
The current principality of Asturias is one of the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain in northern Spain. It played an important role in the history of Spain in the Middle Ages. Don Pelayo (Pelagius in Latin and Belai al-Rumi in Arabic) was the first king of Asturias. He reigned from 718 until his death in 737.
Covadonga is a symbol of Pelayo's resistance against the Moors. The Emir of Córdoba sent a punitive expedition in 722 to a group of people who were hiding in the Picos de Europa (a mountain range in northern Spain, part of the Cantabrian Mountains), and did not want to recognize the authority of the Emir. This group was led by Pelayo.
Pelayo prayed to the virgin for victory. The Moorish commander was killed in battle and his soldiers fled. Pelayo overcame the Moors at the battle of Covadonga in AD 722. This victory, considered the first of Spain's Christian Reconquista (centuries-long struggle between Christians and Moors in the Iberian Peninsula), established the independence of the Kingdom of Asturias in northwestern Spain.
Before the final battle of Covadonga, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pelayo in the cave of Covadonga, with the Cross of Victory. As a result, in the years and centuries after the first victory over the Moors, the cave of Covadonga becomes a popular pilgrimage site in northern Spain and is given the name Santuario de nuestra Señora de Covadonga. In other words, the Shrine of Our Virgin of Covadonga.
Bit by bit, the Spanish territory is being reconquered by Christians from the Moors. Until in 1492 the last piece of Spain falls into Christian hands. The official end of Moorish rule in Spain.
Over the centuries, a wooden chapel was built in the cave. However, this burned down in 1777. In 1940 the chapel was finally replaced by a stone chapel. In the cave of Covadonga you will find a statue of 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga' (=Our Lady of Covadonga) and remains of Pelayo.
As a result of the growing popularity of the pilgrimage site in Covadonga, the Real Colegiata de San Fernando, with a beautiful cloister, was built at the end of the sixteenth century, slightly lower than the cave. And at the end of the nineteenth century, another church is built near the cave. The Basilica of Santa Maria la Real de Covadonga. To get enough space for all pilgrims.
When you walk through the 'gallery' that leads to the Covadonga cueva (Holy Cave of Covadonga), it seems to be in Jerusalem. Then, when you lift your eyes and look at the ceiling, it's hard not to notice a Middle Eastern hue of Byzantine style. In addition, the cave hanging on the rock, overlooking the waterfall, seems to remember and surpass Lourdes like a charm. The water and location resembles a Mexican cenote. Add to this the millions of pilgrims who have visited this place over time, with their efforts, dreams and hopes. Finally, the event and the revelation Pelagius received, not secondary, bring us back to the concreteness of the historical context and to the immanent reality. A place worth the trip. And that allows you to pause every now and then, to think.
The small village of only 70 inhabitants is overrun by thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year. Try to avoid the high season (July-Aug-Sep): some think it's just a funfair here! In the village it is crowded for one of the parking spaces. Shuttle buses run to and from Principe Gardens, Covadonga Sanctuary and Ercina and Enol mountain lakes.
On August 21, 1989, during his pastoral visit to Santiago de Compostela and Asturias, as part of the 4th World Youth Days, Pope John Paul II visited the sanctuary of Covadonga, paying his respects at the statue of the Virgin.