Covadonga, Spain: Our Lady of Covadonga
The province of Austrias lies in Northeastern Spain and is the site of a battle, 722, that halted the Moorish invasion of Spain, that had begun in 711.
Unwilling to surrender their Christian faith to the Muslim occupiers, many Spaniards fled here after the city of Toledo fell to the Saracens. A king, named Pelayo, led a small force of knights in battle in 722 AD and were able to stop the invading force. This marked a turning point and the beginning of the re-conquest of Spain by the Christian forces.
Much of the credit for this victory was given to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to tradition, some local monks in the caves around this area invited Pelayo to pray to the Blessed Mother in a grotto on Mount Auseva, where a statue of the Blessed Mother had been placed.
On the day of the battle the large attacking force was repulsed, their second-in-command killed, and then when they tried to retreat a tremendous storm broke out that resulted in many of the attackers being thrown into the river as result of mud slides. There is quite a bit of contradictory information in the sources cited below, and so we suggest you refer to them if you would like to learn more.
About the Chapel in Covadonga:
Regardless of the timing, the spot became a place of pilgrimage and was promoted by Pelayo’s daughter, Queen Hermesinda and her husband, King Alfonso I. A chapel was built near the grotto and also a monastery of Benedictine Monks. INn 1901 a large Basilica was erected at the site that draws thousands of pilgrims each year (among them Pope John Paul II). The small chapel, shown in the photo at the top of the page, seats only about 30 people. Pelayo’s body was later buried in the chapel. Unfortunately the original chapel and the statue was destroyed by fire in 1777 and a duplicate took its place.
Although August first was the date of the battle, the main celebration here takes place on September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary.
Traveling to Covadonga:
Some Catholic travel groups go to Covadonga, but if you are traveling independently it will be a bit difficult. Due to its isolated location, you will need to travel by land from Santander or Leon. There is bus service from quite a few cities in Northern Spain.
Address: Lugar Real Sitio de Covadonga, 0 S/N 33589 Covadonga, Spain
GPS coordinates: 43° 18′ 29.7828” N, 5° 3′ 17.2224” W
Tel: +34 985 84 60 16
1. Isabel Allardyce, Historic Shrines of Spain (New York: Franciscan Missionary Press, 1912), 33.
2. Madden, Daniel M. A Religious Guide to Europe. New York: Macmillan, 1975. Print.
3. “Don Pelayo and the Battle of Covadonga.” :: Catholic News Agency (CNA). N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2013