This diocese comprises the civil province of the same name (the ancient Kingdom of Asturias), besides certain rural deaneries in the provinces of Lugo, León, Zamora, and Santander. Its capital, the city of Oviedo, has a population of 42,716. The ancient capital of the Asturias country was Astorga (Asturica); Oviedo was founded by King Fruela I (756-68). In 760 Abbot Fromistanus and his nephew Maximus built a monastery there and dedicated a church to St. Vincent the Martyr ; Fruela had houses built and the basilica of S. Salvador. His son, Alfonso II, the Chaste, made Oviedo his capital and restored the Church of S. Salvador. The same king founded the See of Oviedo, in 805, combining with it the ancient See of Britonia. A number of bishops, expelled from their sees by the Saracens, were gathered at Oviedo, where they held two councils. It was there proposed to make Oviedo a metropolitan see, and such it was from 869 until the ancient archdioceses of the Peninsula were restored, when the pope declared Oviedo exempt (1105); the Concordat of 1851 made it suffragan to Santiago.
The Cathedral of S. Salvador was restored in the twelfth century by Archbishop Pelayo, the chronicler. Bishop Fernando Alfonso (1296-1301) undertook another restoration of the chapter-house, and his successor, Fernando Alvarez (1302-1321), began the cloister. At the end of the thirteenth century Gutierre de Toledo began the new Gothic basilica, the principal chapel bearing his arms, though it was completed by his successor Guillén. Diego Ramirez de Guzmán (1421-41) built the two chapels of the south transept (now replaced by the sacristy ), the old entrance to the church, and the gallery of the cloister adjoining the chapter-house. Alonzo de Palenzuela (1470-85) completed the other part of the transept. Juan Arias (1487-97) left his cognizance, the fleur-de-lys and four scallops, on the nave. Juan Daza (1497-1503) erected the grille of the choir; Valerano (1508-12) added the stained-glass windows. Diego de Muros, founder of the great college at Salamanca known as the Oviedo, had the crestings of the porch wrought by Pedro de Bunyeres and Juan de Cerecedo, while Giralte and Valmaseda completed the carving of the precious re-table in the time of Francisco de Mendoza (1525-28). Cristóbal de Rojas (1546-56) affixed his coat-of-arms to the completed tower, with its octagonal pyramid, one of the marvels of Gothic architecture. The chief feature of the cathedral is the "Camara Santa", with its venerable relics. Bishop Pelayo relates that a coffer made by the disciples of the Apostles, and containing the most precious relics of the Holy City, was taken from Jerusalem to Africa, and after several translations was finally deposited at Oviedo by Alfonso II. In the sixteenth century, Bishop Cristóbal de Sandoval y Rojas wished to open it, but could not, being overcome with religious fear. Many other relics are to be seen.
The most famous sanctuary of the diocese is at Covadonga ( Cova longa ), dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, by whose help the Spaniards, in 718, overcame the Arabs commanded by Alkaman. The old building was consumed by fire 17 October, 1777. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine, who had charge of it, had been driven by lack of revenues to live scattered about in various parishes, when Philip IV compelled them to return to community life, increasing their endowment, and building houses for them beside the monastery. Urban VII made an order that the abbot should be dignitary of the cathedral of Oviedo. Charles III wished to rebuild the chapel sumptuously, but never went beyond beginning the work. In recent times it has been completely restored by Bishop Sanz y Fores. Also noteworthy are the two monasteries of S. Vicente and S. Pelayo at Oviedo. West of the city is the Gothic convent of S. Francisco, now used as a hospital. The church of the convent of S. Domingo is of the so-called Modern Gothic style; that of Sta Clari has a lofty tower; S. Isidro, formerly a Jesuit church, has a splendid façade in ashlar stone. In the environs of Oviedo and on the slope of Monte Naranco are the famous churches of Sta Maria and S. Miguel, two art treasures of the ninth century and worthy of endless study. The conciliar seminary of Oviedo was founded in 1851 by Bishop Ignacio Diaz Caneja; it consists of a great seminary in Oviedo, and a little seminary at Valdedios de Villaviciosa, an old Cistercian monastery. Besides the Provincial Institute of Secondary Education of Oviedo, there is another, founded by Jovellanos, at Gijon.
Other bishops worthy of mention are: Bishop Serrano, venerated as a saint: Rodrigo, counsellor to Ferdinand II of León ; the Tuscan Fredolo, the pope's envoy to Alfonso the Wise; Rodrigo Sanchez, who executed important commissions for popes and kings of Spain ; Fernando de Valdés, founder of the University of Oviedo, afterwards Archbishop of Seville and inquisitor general; Jerónimo de Velasco, one of the fathers of the Council of Trent, and founder of the Hospital of Santiago at Oviedo; Alonso Antonio de San Martín, said to have been a natural son of Philip IV. The University of Oviedo celebrated its tercentenary in September, 1908. Its building is severe and simple, in Doric order of the seventeenth century; the library is very extensive, and there is a good museum of natural history and meteorological observatory. This university is now considered the least important in Spain, having but one faculty, that of civil law. Of recent years it has been falling under the influence of the Spanish Krausists. This sect, founded by Sanz del Rio, imported from Germany the Pantheistic doctrines of Kraus, and seeks to extend its activities by conferences and courses outside of the university, even in the Latin American republics. Among the distinguished men of the diocese may be mentioned: the Alvarez of Asturias, who were famous in the Middle Ages ; Ruy Pérez de Avilés, celebrated in connexion with the conquest of Seville; Gutierre Bernaldode Quirós, the hero of Aljubarrota; Pedro Méndez, the conqueror of Florida ; in modern times, the Jansenist Jovellanos, the Regalist Campomanes, the Liberal Argüelles Florez Estrada, Pidal, Posada Herrera; Cardinals Cienfuegos Sierra, Cienfuegos Jovellanos, Inguanzo, and many notable prelates.
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