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Centro de Recepción e Interpretación del Prerrománico Asturiano
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In Villaviciosa

Santa María de Arbazal

General information

The small building that now serves as a storeroom of the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Arbazal is a fine, and currently unique, example in Asturias of a village temple at the service of an early mediaeval peasant community. It is located in the village of the same name, on the western slopes of Mount Arbazal. It lacks clear indications that can provide a date and, therefore, its origins have been based on a comparison with similar early mediaeval buildings in order to place it in its historical context, between the eighth and tenth centuries.

This is a chapel with a single nave and chancel, perfectly oriented to the east. The building sits on rock. The observable material used is based on irregular limestone grey stone walls, well connected, without ashlar stones in the corners. The exterior of the north side features a bench along the wall; severely damaged and formed of stones and slabs. The interior consists of a rectangular nave and trapezoidal chancel.

Given its size and design, Santa Maria de Arbazal is an exceptionally well-preserved example of what the network of early mediaeval prayer houses and rural temples would have looked like; buildings that disappeared under the successive reconstructions of later times. Similar examples regarding the spatial concept have been preserved in Catalonian counties, especially in the Ampurdán (Sant Julià de Boada), and in Hérault, in France, dating from the ninth and tenth centuries. In the historical context of the Kingdom of Asturias, we can mention similarities with the chapel of San Salvador (monastery of San Julián de Samos, Lugo), with an identical solution provided for the chancel arch, and San Román de Moroso or Santa María Helguera (Cantabria), dated in the first half of the tenth century and classified, based on their architectural sculpture, as of the so-called León mozarabic style. All of these cases have been dated prior to the advent of the Romanesque (toward 1070 -1100 in Asturias). The morphology of the chancel arch and of the jambs is unknown in both pre-Romanesque architecture and in Asturian Romanesque; pointing to possible early mediaeval origins as such a solution is not present in the architecture of the Spanish Visigoth period, if such a style can still be considered in the Iberian Peninsula.

Useful information


Arbazal, Villaviciosa.