The Myths of Covadonga Spain | Spain History Facts

In one of my previous posts I discussed the history of the Reconquest of Spain which began with Don Pelayo holding his ground against the Moors in the mountains of Covadonga Spain, an area which still holds much historical and cultural significance to Spaniards particularly from the region of Asturias. When I last visited Covadonga, I found there was so much to explore and so much history and beauty in every corner. One post about this incredible place doesn’t seem to do it justice. This time, I explore more of the mythology and culture behind Covadonga and how its significance persists in the region of Asturias.

There is much to discuss about an area known as the Holy Cave, or Santa Cueva. While traversing the tunnel leading into the Holy Cave, the atmosphere becomes quiet and reserved and one is able to better understand the religious importance of the area by examining the shelves of candles lit for prayer and the religious iconography. There are three large stone crosses at an opening in the tunnel which are often used as a performing area for choir groups.

covadonga spain
The tunnel leading towards the Holy Cave.

Covadonga Spain

The songs usually sung there have particular significance to Asturias and its culture. The most popular types of songs are about the sea and the extensive coal mines in which many generations of Asturians have been working for centuries. There are two songs that are particularly special in Asturias, one of which is replayed each time the principle clock of the city of Oviedo reaches the top of the hour, with the first verse as follows:

Santa María en el cielo hay una Estrella

Que a los asturianos guía.”

The three crosses where choirs perform.

 The Santa Cueva is the same cave that Don Pelayo and his soldiers took refuge and prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance while the Moors were invading. The Moorish army was undoubtedly larger than Don Pelayo’s, and the methods of how Don Pelayo and his men pushed the Moroccans back are shrouded in legend. According to myth, Don Pelayo had a vision of the Virgin Mary who spoke words of encouragement, and Pelayo’s men had the energy to roll boulders off the cave ledge to crush the Moors, and when the Moors fired their arrows, they turned back in midair to attack their own archers. There is a myth where the Cross of Victory appeared to Don Pelayo and his men, offering them divine protection and victory as they killed more than 100,000 Moors and about 60,000 more perished in a miraculous avalanche.

The Cross of Victory, a Visigoth icon, is still a symbol of great importance in modern Spain, since to this day it is displayed in a secure room within the Cathedral of Oviedo since it was donated to the cathedral by King Alfonso III in the 10th century, and it can be seen on the flag of Asturias. A legend describes that the wooden core of the Cross of Victory was actually carried by Don Pelayo’s men during the Battle of Covadonga. While the exact truth of how the Battle of Covadonga unfolded is unknown, the myths are of strong importance to the identity of Covadonga.

Overall, the Battle of Covadonga formed Covadonga’s legacy and helped to shape modern culture and identity in Asturias, Spain. However, it has also been found that other factors such as the influence of the Celts and Romans also had an impact on the culture in northern Spain. Covadonga is a massive part of the Asturian identity and is a remarkable example of how aspects of the medieval world can still influence and connect with the modern world.

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