A brief history and political overview of Oviedo
The name Oviedo originates from the Latin word for city (urbis) and is a reflection of Oviedo's importance in the early history of Spain. During Spain's resistance against the Moors, Oviedo was quite literally the countries cultural, political and religious epi-centre as it became the target destination of those seeking to escape the tyranny of the muslim invaders.
As a reward for its resistance and strength in these adverse times, Oviedo was to become the official capital of Asturias in 810 AD.
Oviedo and Asturias are almost unique in Spain in that there is no documented record of this part of the country ever being invaded. The Moors, aggressors in Spain for several centuries, were defeated by King Pelayo and the challenges of marching their army across the Picos de Europa mountains and subsequent incursions by other invader never reached the Asturian borders.
The original city of Oviedo
The city of Oviedo was foundered in 761 AD by the monks of a religious order and its first building was the church of Saint Vincent. It became a capital city under the rule of King Alfonso II and remains so to this day.
The Visigoths, who once ruled much of the Iberian peninsula, were never evicted from this part of Spain and it became their one true stronghold from the eighth century onwards.
It was during the period that covered the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries that saw the escalation and expansion of Oviedo as a major medieval city. Although a serious fire destroyed many parts of the original town in 1521, there are still structures dating back to that era in Oviedo today. It was also during this time that the boundaries of the “real” town were defined and the town walls constructed.
In Spain’s more recent history Oviedo also played the lead role in a resistance, only this time against a fascist regime. When General Franco seized power in the first half of the twentieth century, Asturias was up in arms at the prospect. Tragically this opposition was crushed mercilessly by Franco’s army and many thousands of Asturians are said to have been massacred. Even today the true extent of these atrocities are not fully known and those who remember these times still want explanations and a greater level of public awareness about the true scale of events.
The Camino de Santiago
Oviedo has a religious significance to Christians as it lies on one of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) pilgrimage. Those with an interest in these matters will know that there are several Camino routes and that the main ones connected with Oviedo are “the Original Way” and the “French Way”.
The Original Way is pertinent to Asturias as it is the path said to have been taken by King Alfonso II in the ninth century shortly after the discovery of Saint James’ tomb. It connects Oviedo with Santiago de Compostela cathedral.
The French route is possibly the best known of the Caminos and Oviedo acts as a link between both the French and the Original (to Oviedo) Caminos.
Other Camino routes also exist from Oviedo taking different and scenic paths, but the Original and the French are the most recognized journeys.
In terms of famous people from Oviedo, probably the one that most people will be aware of is Fernando Alonso, the Formula One GP racing driver.