SAN SALVADOR DE VALDEDIÓS
- Declared Historical-Artistical Monument on June 3rd 1931; Spanish Historical Heritage on June 16th, 1985, and World Heritage by UNESCO; registered together with other Asturian Pre-Romanesque monuments under the name of “Churches of the Kingdom of Asturias” (“Iglesias del Reino de Asturias”) in 1985.
- It is one of the Asturian monuments that has been the least altered along history, as it may be seen in the drawings (see drawings) made by F.J. Parcerisa in the 19th century.
- It has gone under some cleaning and restoration campaigns along the 20th century, and a new one is scheduled to remove dampness and to achieve several archeological research studies in its environment.
Consecrated in 893 by seven bishops according to what states in the inscription of its foundation that is still preserved on a marble plaque built-in in the chevet’s exterior, this church popularly called “El Conventín” is the last great work of the Asturian art that has survived until now and we think it is of the greatest interest, not only because of its high intrinsical value but also because what it means both, as a compendium of the art developed in Asturias during its one hundred years of creativity with its technical limitations, as well as for the opening of a new style -which we will call Mozarabic- that was already beginning to appear in the whole of the Astur-Leonés kingdom and as an announcement, with over a hundred years in advance, of the first European Romanesque Art.
Built by Alphonse the Third, the Great, most likely within a set that also contained a palace and other rooms, similar to the palatial ensembles built in Santullano and in the Naranco Hill by his predecessors, and that it was likewise the place where the king spent his last years after being deposed by his sons.
This church embraces some of the most meaningful characteristics that we have seen in the previous periods of the Asturian art.
- It has a basilical plan, totally vaulted, with three naves and three apses of the same width than the naves and a higher compartment above each one of them, with no access from the interior of the church; only the central one has a large exterior window, framed by an alfiz, and formed by two horse-shoe arches upon columns and capitals. The church completes itself with two lateral compartments at the level of the crossing, and an interior portico at their feet formed by three compartments also of the same width as the naves, supporting a tribune that has the samedistribution, with access through an attached staircase in the southern side. If we compare its proportions, 16m long by 8.20m wide and 8.80m of maximum height, the similarity with San Miguel de Lilloo is evident as the latter has the same distribution and its dimensions are 19,70m, 10.5m and 11m.
- But although in the design of Valdediós they tried to keep the proportions of the great Ramirense work, they did not risk to utilize the technical solutions of the genial architect of El Naranco, so they went back to the thick pillars that we have already seen in San Julián de los Prados, finishing in molded imposts that support the four round arches that separate the main nave from each aisle. The three naves, of 2.80m wide by 8.80m high and the aisles of 1.55 by 5.50m, are covered with continuous barrel vaults without using perpiaño arches, abandoning the complex structure of the aisles of Lillo, though they are also built in grainsand and the exterior buttresses have been kept. The fact that the height of the nave is more than three times its width, what produces a sensation of verticality, it lets the building of the tribune upon the portico, and the difference in height between the central nave and the aisles made it possible the opening of four windows on each wall of the main nave, one upon each separation arch that provides illumination almost zenithal on account of how high they are placed which is not usual in constructions of that time.
- Maybe because this backward step in some of the building solutions of Alphonse the Second’s period, and probably because the atelier that built the three Ramirense buidings had disappeared, as no works have been found after Valdediós, there is a return to the type of decoration of that period abandoning the rich sculptured decoration of the buildings of El Naranco, reduced in this case to the chevet’s columns and capitals, partly reutilized. However, the spirit of a court monument is maintained based in a very rich pictorial decoration of which some rests are preserved that let us figure out their original aspect, basically formed by geometrical and vegetal drawings inspired in the Late-Roman painting, like in San Julián de los Prados, to such an extent that the similarity in the motifs as well as in the colours, in the mosaiques found among the remains of the Roman villa of Veranes is here even bigger than in that church. But we also find motifs that are usual in Asturian art, like triumphal crosses and Christ’s monograms, and others of previous Hispanic heritage like human figures that recall the ones in Lillo and which precedent we can find in the Visigothic art.
If the synthesis of the Asturian art that we find in Valdediós is remarkable, even more is the set of details that materialize the change in style that was being produced and that finally culminated with what we have called Asturian art, replaced by the Mozarabic art, announcing the next emergence of the Romanesque Art:
- Whilst the sculptured decoration of the chevet is formed by cubic capitals of unquestionable Asturian style, upon possibly reutilized columns, in the windows we see again the not very pronounced horseshoe darch of Visigothic type, with alfiz, and its decoration, as well as the lattice work shows the influence of the new trends provided by the Christians that were emigrating from Al Andalus to the Asturian kingdom.
- Attached to its southern side and built immediately after the thcurch, there is a small portico that presents the only trial that we have known of an imitation of the Ramirense style of construction and at the same time, the effect that the new Mozarabic decoration trends may exert on it. In fact it is a small nave of 8m long by 1.60m wide, covered by a barrel vault upon perpiaño arches supported upon capitals and columns attached to the inner wall, and upon corbels with the shape of capitals at the outside. The whole decoration, including the lattice work of the windows, was sculptured by a master that came from the south. The objective of this portico is unknown, but it is something completely new in Asturian art, and to find a precedent we must go back to the Visigothic churches of North African type of the sixth century and some later reflection like Santa Lucía del Trampal; but this type of porticos will extend through immediately subsequent constructions of the Asturian and Mozarabic arts to all the Castillian Romanesque Art.
- There are other details that relate the church of Valdediós, deeply Asturian, with Mozarabic builders, like the fact that the belfry on the main façade and the cutting line of the saddle roof end in caliphal type battlements.
Though structurally, the technical quality of the utilized solutions cannot be compared with San Miguel de Lillo’s, its external aspect is of a remarkable balance and beauty. Whilst in the portico only ashlar work had been used, the church was built in rough stone, except in the corners, the buttresses, the main façade and the central apse, where also ashlars had been used. It is an homogeneous ensemble, of very well studied proportions with special attention paid to the main façade and the chevet. The main façade, ending in a belfry has a very complete structure: in its central part, between two buttresses that mark the separation of the naves, opens an entrance door to the portico, in a large round arch, with well chiseled stone voussoirs upon columns and capitals; and upon it, a great window, very similar to the one described for the chevet’s chamber although somewhat larger, where a decorated ashlar leans with a great triumphal Asturian cross.On each aisle, a narrow window opens at a considerable height and in the portico’s side, a big lattice work window. The chevet has a window that ends in a round arch in brick in each lateral apse, and in the central one, that stands out from the lateral ones, there is a big window like the one described in the upper chamber, but bigger, as it has three arches.
Even more interesting is the lateral aspect, especially from the southern side. It appears as an ensemble created by vertical plans that form the naves’ walls and the portico; the latter one made more beautiful by two big arches separated by the lateral compartment, cut by the inclined roofs. The proportions are practically perfect, with different structures at each level, as the upper one has two levels that correspond to the main nave and the chevet a little lower; the second one is formed by the nave and the lateral chevet, both of equal height, and the third one, at the portico’s level, cut by the saddle roof of the lateral compartment. The effect thus achieved replaces the sensation of verticality of the façades by one of horizontality that clearly announces the arrival of a much more mature art, but that it would still require over one hundred years to appear: the Romanesque Art.
In summary, we find ourselves in front of a monument of great importance in the history of the European art since, besides being the last great work of a style that seemed to extinguish on account of the thrust of the new trends that were going to immediately replace it, left an open door that would lead to the first European fusion art: the Romanesque, created by that fusion of local developments, and if among them the Asturian Art was one that contributed the most, San Salvador de Valdediós embraces a compendium of that contribution, as it can be seen by comparing its structure with the one of the Cistercian monastery -that started its building 325 years later- to which now belongs: a similar plan, except that the apses in this one are semicircular and that instead of the portico there is a cloister, the whole building also covered by semicircular barrel vaults and even the utilization of buttresse.
Other interesting information
Access: Leave Oviedo and take A-66 to Santander; after 8Km, take A-64 for 20Km till AS-113 towards Villaviciosa, at some 13 Km, in San Pedro de Ambás, you will find the entrance to La Viña and Valdediós. GPS Coordinates: 43º 26′ 13,49″N 5º 30′ 23,58″W.
Information telephone: Monasterio Cisterciense de Santa María de Valdediós: 985 89 23 24
Visiting hours: May-October: from 11:00 to 13:00 and from 16:30 to 18:30. November-April: from 11:00 to 13:00. Mondays closed. Guided visits only.
Tickets: 1,25 Euros
Arte Pre-románico Asturiano: Antonio Bonet Correa
SUMMA ARTIS: Tomo VIII
L’Art Préroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE
Ars Hispanie: Tomo II
Arte Asturiano: José Manuel Pita Andrade
Guía del Arte Prerrománico Asturiano: Lorenzo Arias Páramo
El Prerromanico Asturiano: San Salvador de Valdediós
Monasterio Cisterciense de Santa María de Valdediós
Página oficial de Valdediós
La época de Alfonso III y San Salvador de Valdediós