The heart of Oviedo, Spain is the area known as “el antiguo”, meaning ancient. I especially love this part of Oviedo for its romantically historic architecture that is a pleasantly heavy dose of the lasting impression of ages past. The prominent colorings of sandstone-beige and rock-greys and blacks mingle in with each other as natural elements that have lasted in this form for years that astound me. These simple materials combine to rise high above my head in the splendid grandeur of the Cathedral tower, the sacredness of the other small churches and convents, the splendor of the University building and museums…
I find it hard to express in words why this kind of place is so comforting and at the same time powerful to me. There is a sense of coziness in the materials that have withstood ages of civilization and seen the wear and tear of the natural elements. Many times we think of stone and brick as cold, but I picture how many souls have lived their lives in these buildings through the ages and it gives life and warmth to them. The buildings feel safe and protective, like a strong fortress to take shelter in. In this and other ways it feels comforting, yet heavy and magical…as if the longer it has existed, the more right it has to impress so powerfully and to resonate so strongly with me.
Maybe the older it’s presence, the more feeling and power the remnants gain. They do not seem to be buildings…no, they cannot be called that…they are more like “trees”, so much a part of the land due to all that they have seen and lasted through, that they become even more rooted in their surrounding nature.
From the smallest details…oh, the details, the intricacies that these remnants have…to hand carvings in stone of faces, flowers, angels and animals to coat of arms depicting family generations and the lives of those who left their mark on these architectural remnants. And the more easily recognized attributes that are the beautiful characteristics of structural design – the arches, graceful and strong with their capstone, the pillars standing firm and essential in their solidity, like tree trunks supporting branches and leaves rather than high conclave ceilings smooth in marble and intricately tiled roofs.
Then there are the features that are endearing to me, like the chipping of paint in bright European colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and blues…naturally faded from what used to be bright and vibrant to what is now enchantingly old. The embrace of nature as dark and bright green fresh vines embrace walls, corners, and balconies with flowers of color that renew time and again; while trees of all forms, gnarled and bent from age or towering and gracefully tall, interweave themselves with the very foundations of the remnants as their roots stubbornly grow through, in and over stone, brick and even marble.
The romantic in my heart is tugged at, purely awoken with statues and busts of those who only in stone and marble now impress their lives upon us. A warrior, a past King, stands so impressively in white stone, with his shield and sword held, a mantle on his shoulder and a crown on his head…yet even if these items of chivalry and medieval manner were real, they would not be able to increase or overshadow the prominence of simple bravery, strength, and honor that exudes from the artistry that encapsulates the heart of this warrior in remnant form…it is as if the life of this person still throbs and resonates, such was the impact of their character and life in this land. A lady, a past woman, so elegant and graceful that I wonder if her richly bronze statue form will come to life and speak to me. Her natural yet strong posture makes me think she would speak words of wisdom, weighted with a feminine strength that in her time was cultivated with perhaps little appreciation or acknowledgement. Yet whether she was common or noble in her time, the life-like detail of her intricate dress and the beautiful form and picture of her face, culminates in a release of fortitude and loveliness coming from a character of pure heart that her era especially fashioned. The way this image inspires and impresses today, causes me to fathom how this woman must have inspired and impressed during her living days.
It is not just my eyes that have so much to take in, but my ears also as church bells toll. Their charming rich sound makes my mind wander back over all the years through which they have reverberated from these ancient remnants. Their ringing touches the surrounding green hills and mountains, dancing back over and through the towns and villages. Whether on the wind or through rain, with sunlight accompanying or open blue skies for the bell’s sound to fly through…it plays resolutely the series of notes that to this area reveals a song. Fading and seeming so brief, yet for ages so steady and faithful, sounding out with their clocks, singing out the hour of the day. The sound is strong and pure, carrying a weight with it of the importance of time.
After all, time is of importance with the remnants and what makes this “Antiguo” part of Oviedo my favorite and so powerfully dear to my heart. Magical, intensely enchanting, romantic, impressive and inspiring…cozy, strong and safe, warm and inviting, calling. So many strong feelings that give it it’s heaviness that I encounter. It is so touching and real to me, how these remnants make their way into my soul. Perhaps this why they are so lasting…for the soul carries things beyond time.