Select Page

San Salvador de Valdediós

World Heritage


The Church of the San Salvador de Valdediós, also known popularly as “El Conventín” (“The Little Convent”), is situated deep in the secluded valley of Boides, in Villaviciosa, very close to the Cistercian Church of the monastery of Santa María de Valdediós, built in the 13th century.

It was built by King Alfonso III “the Great” (866-910) and consecrated by seven bishops on 16 September 893, as recorded in the inscription on the marble consecration stone, conserved in the so-called “Chapel of the Bishops”.

The basilica floor plan originally featured three naves separated by archways supported on square-shaped, solid pillars and a ceiling of different heights with barrel vaulting.

Entrance is through a vestibule flanked by two small rooms of uncertain purpose, and it has been suggested that they were used for penance or as shelter for pilgrims. Structural function is clear since the royal tribune is located above it, from which the King and his entourage would attend the liturgical services, accessible from the southern nave.

The main chevet consisted of three parts: a main chapel, dedicated to the Saviour, and the apsidal chapels dedicated to St. James the Apostle and St. John the Baptist, according to the inscriptions on the lintels of the windows. The side aisle open onto two rooms, to the south and to the north, of which the latter has been rebuilt.


The main chapel and the apsidal chapels conserve evidence of the existence of chancel screens that separated the liturgical space for the clergy from the space occupied by the parishioners, a hierarchy of spaces specific to the Hispanic liturgy.

One striking feature is the existence of three inscriptions putting a curse on those who would act against the church: one above the entry gate and two more above the doors to the lateral rooms to the north and south.

At a later date, the royal portico was added, which was closed with vaulted ceilings, adjoining the southern façade. The portico communicates with the interior of the church through a door in the side aisle, acting as a privileged entryway for the monarch.

The magnificent decorative repertory of Valdediós combines different artistic movements at the formal level, and also at the stylistic level.

This convergence of influences can be seen in the sculptural decoration of the capitals of the arch of the central apse (resting on reused shafts), with rope moulding and veined palm leaves in the Asturias tradition; the capitals from the Classical tradition from the apsidal chapels, and the remaining capitals of the portico, linked to an Andalusian sculptural workshop, as are the merlons of the upper ridge of the roof.

The biforas of the upper part of the central nave and the trifora of the main chapel allow light to enter the interior of the church. They are designed with small horseshoe arches with a Mozarabic alfiz adorning the frames together with mouldings with traditional Byzantine rope motifs, as are the windows of the southern room and the chamber above the apse of the main chapel. This chamber, which has its only entrance from the outside the building, is typical of pre-Romanesque architecture, and its purpose was probably structural, aesthetic or for non-specific uses.

The striking features are the image of the Cross with Greek letters Alpha and Omega from the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse, as a protective symbol, above the entrance, and the decoration of the western lattices of the portico with grilles, rinceaux and florets, inspired by models from Cordoba.

The beautiful latticework of the southern wall of the portico of Holy Saviour is a replica, since the original was taken to the Archaeological Museum of Asturias in the years 1953-1955, during the restoration work of Luis Menéndez-Pidal y Álvarez, after an unsuccessful robbery attempt.

These schematic plant motifs allude, in their imagery, to the true Tree of Life that is Christ, located at the centre of the Heavenly Jerusalem, according to the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse by St. John.

The painting is conserved in the main chapel and the north chapel on the walls and vaults of the side aisle and on the tribune. The ornamental themes are those typical of Asturian art, such as: geometrical motifs –circles, squares and ovals–, plant motifs –palmette leaves mixed with ribbons, chains and quadrilaterals– and the triple Cross with Greek letters Alpha and Omega. The human figure appears a few times in the imagery, and the few traces conserved –shoes and clothing of a person–, lead us to deduce the influences of Mozarabic miniatures.

On the northern wall of the main chapel, on top of the 9th-century decoration, there is an image of an angel attributed to Francisco de Reiter in the middle of the 17th century.

The church underwent significant reforms and rebuilding of which there is record since the 18th century when the interior facings were repainted. In the following century, the stone masonry passageway that joined the Conventín with the monastery of Santa María, and the portico added to the façade of the church was also demolished. In 1954, Luis Menéndez-Pidal y Álvarez began restoration work, in 1970, the room on the north side of the church was rebuilt and, in 1980, the ceiling was restored. In the year 2010, different restoration tasks were carried out on the structure and the layers of coating on the walls.


Your generous piety, Christ the God, shines forth everywhere, and your generous piety often saves evildoers. Men affirm this, the nations applaud wherever you bestow life on what has been extinguished, men confirm this. Take the part of the poor man, pardon the good man, without paying attention to his merits; with the mercy that makes you strong, take the part of the poor man, it is clear that inside me the wretched weaknesses of my mind does battle, my piercing guilt wounds me. May your beneficial grace shine forth now thanks to your mercy, the grace that lifts up the fallen, and may it shine forth now. May your nourishing piety help me, may piety help us, granting us all salvation under your heavenly cloak. This house of worship was consecrated by seven bishops: Rudesindo Dumiense, Naustis Conibrigense, Sisnando Iriense, Arnulfo Asturicense, Argimiro Lamecense, Recaredo Lucense, Elecanes Cesaragustanenese. In the year 931 of our era, on the 16th of the Calends of October” [16 September 893 AD], (Spanish translation of César García de Castro) (English translation from the Spanish translation of Zesauro Traducciones).

At the Church of San Salvador de Valdedios, services are held on specific occasions.



Plans of the monument

Floor plans of Santa María del Naranco that can be viewed at the following button

Antique photos

Selection of photos of Santa María del Naranco that can be viewed at the following button



33312 Villaviciosa – Asturias


+(34) 985 97 49 66



Calendario de Verano

De Abril a Spetiembre:
Martes a domingo:
10:30 a 13:00 h (última visita)
16:00 a 18:30 h (última visita)
Lunes cerrado

Calendario de Invierno

De Octubre a Marzo:
Martes a domingo:
10:30 a 13:00 h (última visita)
Lunes cerrado