Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Crosses of Oviedo

Oviedo is a city that boasts not only one but two holy crosses. I was intrigued by their history and sure enough I found something interesting. When it comes to history in any part of Spain there is always a great juicy legend to learn about.

The Cross of the Angels
According to the legend, Kind Alfonso II decided to get a golden cross made. At that time there were no goldsmiths in the city so when he heard that two of them just happened to be passing through the city he gave them lots of gold and precious stones with the order to make the cross. In the next morning the goldsmiths disappeared…but left a cross so beautiful and so artfully made that it couldn´t had been made by human hands. It was decided that the two goldsmiths were in truth angels. On the back it says in Latin ‘With this sign our enemies will be defeated’. Later the King graciously offered the Cross to the city and today it can be senn in the Cámara Santa, or ‘Saint Chamber’ of the Cathedral of San Salvador.

The Cross has become the symbol of the city and it is included in the coat of arms. The two letters are the alpha and the omega as according to the Bible Jesus once said ‘I am the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega’. You see the Cross held by two angles depicted on walls, doors or churches all over the city.

The Cross of Victory
Just over a 1000 years ago the moors decided to conquer Spain and starting from the South slowly took over the country. We have already learnt about the hero, Hairy Willy in Catalonia who beat back the moors. In Asturias we find another hero, Don Pelayo. He was the one who, with the support of the Virgin Mary who breathed on him in a cave, managed to pushed back the Moorish army and therefore left Asturias unconquered. (For this the people here are immensely proud.) While going in the battle, he was holding a wooden cross in his hand. Yes, it’s exactly the same cross that later became known as the Cross of Victory. The above mentioned King Alfonso II seemed to get it, had it covered with gold and put a few precious stones here and there before his death offered it to the Cathedral.

It can be seen in the Cámara Santa, along with one shoe of St. Peter and other crosses in which are little hidden holes contain pieces from the cross of Jesus (yes, right here in Oviedo), a cloth that kept the blood and sweat of a saint (sorry I forgot which) and beautifully decorated chests that hide very important relics in the form of bones of many different saints. You can see all these only for three euros. Bargain.

For many centuries thousands of pilgrims travelled here to see these relics. For me it was more interesting to see the graffiti that these pilgrims left behind on the walls while waiting for their turn. Touching the outline of these carvings made me feel the age of these stones. It suddenly all made sense to visit the Chamber before my own pilgrimage to Santiago the next day.

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