1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oviedo (city)

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31784441911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20 — Oviedo (city)

OVIEDO, an episcopal city and capital of the Spanish province of Oviedo; 16 m. S. of the Bay of Biscay, on the river Nalon, and on the Leon-Gijón, Oviedo-Trubia and Oviedo-Infiesto railways. Pop. (1900) 48,103. Oviedo is built on a hill rising from a broad and picturesque valley, which is bounded on the north-west by the Sierra de Naranco. The four main streets of Oviedo, which meet in a central square called the Plaza Mayor or Plaza de la Constitucion, are the roads connecting Gijón and Leon (north and south) and Santander and Grado (east and west). The streets are clean and well lighted; the projecting roofs of the houses give a characteristic effect, and some portions of the old Calle de la Plateria are highly picturesque. In the Plaza Mayor is the handsome Case Consistorial or town hall dating from 1662; the Jesuit church of San Isidro (1578), and some ancient palaces of the Asturian nobillty are architecturally interesting. The university was founded by Philip III. in 1604; connected with it are a fine library and physical and chemical museums. The Gothic cathedral, founded in 1388, occupies the site of a chapel founded in the 8th century, of which only the Camara Santa remains. The west front has a fine portico of ornamented arches between the two towers. The interior contains some fine stained glass, but has been much disfigured with modern rococo additions. The Camara Santa (dating from 802) contains the famous arca of Oviedo, an 11th-century Byzantine chest of cedar, overlaid with silver reliefs of scenes in the lives of Christ, the Virgin and the apostles. In it are preserved some highly sacred relics, two crosses dating from the 8th and 9th centuries and other valuable pieces of gold and silver plate. The cathedral library has some curious old MSS., including a deed of gift made by Alphonso II. of Asturias in 812, and a collection of illuminated documents of the 12th century, called the Libro gótico. On the Sierra de Naranco is the ancient Santa Maria de Naranco, originally built by Ramiro I. of Asturias in 850 as a palace, and afterwards turned into a church. Higher up the hill is San Miguel de Lino, also of the 9th century; and on the road to Gijón, about a mile outside the town, is the Santullano or church of St Julian, also of very early date. Few towns in Spain have better schools for primary and higher education, and there are a literary and scientific institute, a meteorological observatory, a school for teachers, a school of art, adult classes for artisans, an archaeological museum and several public libraries. Oviedo is the centre of a thriving trade in agricultural products; its other industries are marble-quarrying, and the manufacture of arms, cotton and woollen fabrics, iron goods, leather and matches.

Oviedo, founded in the reign of Fruela (762), became the fixed residence of the kings of the Asturias in the time of Alphonso II., and continued to be so until about 924, when the advancing reconquest of Spain from the Moors led them to remove their capital to Leon. From that date the history of the city was comparatively uneventful, until the Peninsular War, when it was twice plundered by the French—under Ney in 1809 and under Bonnet in 1810.