VILLA ROMANA DE VERANES
The Roman Villa of Veranes, is an archaeological site that was previously known as Torrexón de San Pedro. It is approximately one hectare in size and is located in the parish of Cenero, in the Gijón council, about 12 kilometers from the city and very close to the old Roman route that communicated these territories with its capital, Asturica Augusta (Astorga).
In the year 1788, Baltasar Gaspar Melchor María de Jovellanos, the famous writer, jurist and enlightened politician from Gijón, sat in the shade of the ruins known as Torrexón de Veranes to personally review the works on the new road from Gijón to Castilla. your personal initiative.
It is in 1917, when the new parish priest of the Cenero abbey, Manuel Valdés Gutiérrez, was indignant at the uncontrolled plunder that the residents made of everything useful for their houses that still remained among those ruins and began to value the preserved remains. . Fond of archaeology, the bursar turned parish priest was struck by some archaeological remains and began to study them. In particular, he fixed his attention on an octagonal room that he reflected in his own handwriting on a plan under the name of Monastery of Santa María. Manuel Valdés interpreted this room as a typical construction of the Order of the Temple, however, today we know, beyond any doubt, that it is part of the complex of baths that were part of the residence of the Roman villa, specifically the sudatio.
The parish priest went to the Mayor of Gijón at the time, D. Gil Fernández Barcía, to inform him of the importance of the remains, however: “he listened to him with some skepticism because archaeological excavations were not among his municipal priorities</i >”. Years later, in 1935, the magazine Blanco y Negro would publish that the first mayor of Gijón “delivered 49 pesetas to the parish priest of Veranes for the conservation of those ruins.” Despite the scarcity of means, the parish priest was a pioneer in research on the site. Reports confirm that the priest carried out tastings and discovered not only an important medieval necropolis but also pipes and the original walls of the town.
Later, in 1981, the then General Director of Fine Arts, Manuel Fernández Miranda from Gijón promoted a rigorous archaeological research plan in Gijón. After different studies carried out throughout the s. XX the importance of the Roman phase of Veranes was highlighted in 1980 by Carmen Fernández Ochoa. Between 1983 and 1987, four excavation campaigns directed by Lauro Olmo were carried out. Archaeological work resumed in 1997 under the direction of Carmen Fernández Ochoa and Fernando Gil Sendino.
The archaeological remains that can currently be visited in Veranes belong to the urban pars of a large villa-type establishment that was built in the Low Empire, in the s. IV AD, on the primitive ruins of a high imperial rustic settlement of considerable relevance.
This large manor house, belonging to a notable owner, who was probably called Veranius, presents three phases of architectural reform and expansion that take place throughout from the 4th century AD C. The mansion will continue in use until the 5th century AD. C. The set is organized into four terraces dug into the hillside. The main entrance of the villa is on the west flank and gives access to the north patio.
The configuration of the spaces allows us to assume that the ceremonial route made by the visitors to the villa began at the entrance to the north patio, through which they accessed the large loggia open at noon whose route led to the main rooms of representation.
It has several mosaics and highlights the polychrome mosaic of the representation room (oecus), protected by a cover. Tombs from the High Middle Ages have also been found.
In the space of the old Roman dining room (triclinium), which had previously been a reception room (oecus), was built in the s. IV a church from which we can see its floor plan, with a single nave, finished off in a horseshoe-shaped apse.
The function of the Torrexón continues, at present, being discussed. In the opinion of Joaquín Manzanares, we would find ourselves before an old Christian basilica, with a horseshoe-shaped apse, three longitudinal naves, the central one being wider, through whose upper area ran, on both sides, a row of windows that illuminated the enclosure, thus like spiral staircases at each angle to go up to the stands located in the side naves. The portico at the foot and the baptistery attached to the southern flank complete the list of elements, according to this author. However, for Professor Fernando Marín it would be a low-imperial thermarum basilica, they would attribute to the plan of this temple a peculiar and highly original character, among all those known to Christianity, that is, a hall of meeting associated with the baths, taking advantage of the building only in medieval times for religious or funerary purposes.
There is no doubt about the Christianization process that the space is undergoing, thus, the indications of ruin and progressive abandonment of the town of Veranes coincide with the appearance of the first burials discovered in some rooms of the stately area.
Archaeological excavation has shown that the structures of the urban pars are abandoned and depreciated during the second half of the fifth century or beginning of the 6th century AD, except for the triclinium and the rooms close to it. These spaces remain standing throughout time and in the 9th century AD. We know that they are being used as a church for the village or place of Riera under the dedication of San Pedro and Santa María.
In this process of Christianization we cannot ignore the appearance of two blocks of sandstone that contain Christian symbols. One of them, the Abbey’s crismón, is currently at the access door to the sacristy of the current Cenero Abbey, a few kilometers from the Roman villa of Veranes and was brought to this place by the parish priest of Cenero, D Manuel Valdés Gutiérrez in the middle of the 20th century. The second ashlar was found during the excavations of the town of Veranes in 2008, specifically in the necropolis area of the town, in the so-called North Patio, in tomb 593 (according to F. Ochoa), currently in the Archaeological Museum of Asturias.
This ashlar, 0.75 meters wide, 0.30 meters high and about 0.20 meters deep, has graffiti on its visible face that reproduces at least four crismones or cryptograms made by incision. These Constantinian-type chrysmons have traditionally been dated from the 4th century AD. in Hispania.
The walls of the triclinium currently preserve elevations that reach four meters from the original Roman masonry and there are photographs by Veranes from the early 20th century that show how these walls exceeded eight meters in height .
In addition to the musealization of the archaeological remains, the exhibition hall houses the archaeological objects from the excavations of the town that illustrate the evolution and history of the site from the Roman period to the end of the Middle Ages. The objects are grouped by different themes:
- The villa in the High Empire, with examples of typically Roman ceramics and funerary inscriptions.
- The great late-Roman villa: where objects related to economic activities are displayed: agriculture, livestock and crafts (carpentry and textiles) and metallurgical activities. Coins and imported objects show the trade of Veranes in the commercial circuits of the late Roman period. Beliefs, leisure and daily life: ornaments and personal hygiene (rings, hairdressing pins, brooches, buckles and fibulae, necklace beads), writing materials, games and hunting, and lastly, elements related to the architecture of the villa, especially the iron ones.
- The last space in the exhibition hall is occupied by pieces related to the transformation of the town in Late Antiquity and its transition to the Middle Ages.
Rafael Caballero for URBS REGIA
Other interesting information
From Sept. 16 to June 15 Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00-15:00
From June 16 to Sept. 15 Tuesday to Sunday: 10:30-19:00
Holy Week 10:00-17:00
Every Monday of the year, January 1 and 6, Carnival Tuesday, August 15, December 24, 25 and 31
FERNANDEZ OCHOA, C. – GIL SENDING, F. – OREJAS SACO DEL VALLE, A., 2004: “La Villa Romana De Veranes. El Complejo Rural Tardorromano y Propuesta de Estudio del Territorio”, Archivo Español de Arqueología 77 nº 189-190, 197–219.
FERNÁNDEZ OCHOA, C. 2008: “La villa romana de Veranes (Gijón) y otras
villae de la vertiente septentrional de la cordillera cantábrica”, en FERNÁNDEZ OCHOA, C. et alii, Las villae tardorromanas en el occidente del Imperio. Arquitectura y función, Gijón: TREA, 435-480.
IGNACIO LAVILLA, P., 2015: Asentamientos rurales y ciudad en la zona centro-oriental de la actual Asturias en época Tardoantigua: evidencias arqueológicas, TFM Universidad de Cantabria.
FERNÁNDEZ OCHOA, C. – GIL, F., SALIDO, J. – ZARZALEJOS, M., 2021: “Después de la Villa. Ocupaciones y usos tardoantiguos en el yacimiento de Veranes (Gijón, España)”, Abitare nel Mediterraneo Tardoantico, Bari, 483-495.