Santa Cueva de Covadonga

Cangas de Onís, Spain

The Santa Cueva de Nuestra Señora de Covadonga (Holy Cave of Our Lady of Covadonga) is a Catholic sanctuary cave in the Picos de Europa mountains. The name refers to the sanctuary, dedicated to the Virgin of Covadonga, where the first batlle of the Spanish Reconquest took place in 718.

The origin of the cave as place of cult is controversial. It seems to have been originally another place of confluence of Pagan Cult as the Old English Wilweorthunga, meaning 'well of worship' had been in Prehistorical times and still during the Roman Empire occupation. The Christian tradition has it that Pelagius, chasing a criminal, who had taken refuge in the cave, meets a hermit who was venerating the Virgin Mary. The hermit asked Pelagius to forgive the criminal, since the criminal had resorted to the protection of the Virgin, and says that one day that he too would need to seek shelter in the Cave.

The first construction in the Holy Cave dates back of the reign of Alfonso I of Asturias, who, to commemorate the victory of Pelagius to the Muslims, built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, that would give rise to the invocation of the Our Lady of Covadonga (popularly known as La Santina). In addition to the altar dedicated to the Virgin built other two for Saint John the Baptist and Saint Andrew. Alfonso make delivery of this church to the Benedictine monks.

The cave was covered with wood, and in 1777 a fire destroyed the medieval Marian statue. The current wooden image of Virgin and Child dates to the 16th century and was donated to the sanctuary by the Cathedral of Oviedo in 1778.

During the civil war the Virgin image disappears and is found in the Embassy of Spain in France in 1939. The present chapel of Romanesque style is work of Luis Menéndez-Pidal and Alvarez.

Royal pantheon of Covadonga

The shrine of Covadonga was very important for the early (8th century) Christian kingdom of Asturias. Several members of the royal family buried in the Pantéon Real de Covadonga like Pelagius of Asturias (died 737), the first king of Asturias.



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Founded: 8th century AD
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in Spain


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Gabriel Barab (2 years ago)
Memory exercise 3. A warm day. Winding roads. This is where the earth embraces the sky. We arrive here in the afternoon. Mom brings me a bowl of fabada since Andre would be scandalized if I didn't try it. It is our last day in Asturias and the first time in a week I've eaten something other than potatoes. Note to self: fabada is probably better in the winter. A shrine above green water. Walking towards it slowly, on weak legs. But it is easy to reach. It is hard to commune with the sacred in crowded places. But I can imagine it empty. Just me and the shrine. Green water below. Cloudless azure above.
Mary Cornforth (3 years ago)
Amazing place. Best thing about motorhome travelling we get to see some beautiful places that are off the beaten track. This place is outstanding
Vera Egorova (3 years ago)
100% must-see in Asturias!
Tom Malloy (3 years ago)
A very unique experience. Be ready for a long walk up from the parking lot.
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