It is located dominating the valley of the river Lena, on a hill in the parish of Felgueras near Vega del Rey, in the council of Lena. Surrounded by a landscape of great beauty, the church of Santa Cristina of Lena is a pre-Romanesque building built in the mid-ninth century within the so-called ramirense stage, like Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo in Monte Naranco, during the reigns of Ramiro I, years 842-850 and his son Ordoño I, 850-866. As there is no preserved written reference to the church of Santa Cristina, its origin is and has been the object of many doubts and controversies, and it may even have a Visigothic origin corresponding to the foundation of San Pedro and San Pablo of Felgueras in the seventh century, although its current structure was built in the ninth century.
We have to wait until the seventeenth century to find documents of the church in which he appears with his dedication to Santa Cristina. At the end of the nineteenth century is when they begin the restoration of the temple, works that continued in the early twentieth century, although archaeological studies continue today. The church of Santa Cristina of Lena was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1885 and a hundred years later, in 1985, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If this small building with a Greek cross floor plan, a central nave and chambers on each side, the apse on the eastern side, a portico on the western side and two of lower height than the previous ones in the centre of the larger sides are striking, the interior is surprisingly beautiful. The narthex or covered portico is accessed through the temple's only door, situated between two columns and finished with a semicircular arch. The portico has some small lateral hollows, which some say were accommodations for pilgrims to rest and spend the night.
On both sides of the central nave there are two other rooms for use by the temple's services. Above the narthex is the royal tribune accessed by a staircase attached to the wall, at first there were two stairs, one on each side, from here you can continue to admire, with different perspective, the head or apse that is located about a meter above the central stretch and separated from it by a beautiful iconostasis in stone, a work of art ramirense but with Visigothic decorative motifs, consisting of three stone arches resting on four columns of marble. The apse is accessed by two small staircases attached to the sides. The walls of the church are adorned with medallions. Santa Cristina of Lena is a building set in an environment full of magic that traps the visitor who cannot stop looking and admiring every detail, every stone...
On the last Sunday in July the inhabitants of the nearby villages and hamlets go on a traditional pilgrimage in honour of Santa Cristina to the field of the temple. After mass and in honour of the saint, the "puya´l ramu" is celebrated, which is an auction of bread.
Of the church of Santa Cristina of Lena, there are doubts and diverse opinions, some consider it the first construction of the ramirense period while for others this wonderful jewel was constructed after Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel of Lillo, the truth is that just like these, the church of Santa Cristina of Lena encloses a great beauty.
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Many stories and legends have grown up around the pre-Romanesque monument of Santa Cristina. Myths that speak of treasures hidden in the cave beneath the mound, perhaps accumulated by the hen of golden eggs that, hidden in it, is seen every hundred years, or of tombs with gigantic bones found when going to work in the countryside.
The road leading to the church of Santa Cristina of Lena can be found in the vicinity of the town of La Cobertoira, which can be reached by following the A-66 motorway known as the The Silver Route, which links Oviedo and León, or by following the AS-242, the old route of the national road as it passes through this region. It is in the stretch between Pola de Lena and Campomanes where we find the detour that leads to La Cobertoira and also to the church of Santa Cristina of Lena.
As soon as you take the detour, you will have to go to the nearby La Cobertoira railway station, passing by it, leaving it behind and following the narrow local road that leads to the nearby town of Palacio. It is just before reaching this town where the parking area is located in which we must park our vehicle. From the vicinity of the car park part of the road we must follow to access the church and thus make the visit. We will also have the option of reaching Santa Cristina of Lena from the apeadero de La Cobertoira, in whose building is located the Pre-Romanesque Didactic Classroom, from there passing under the tracks up a cobbled road that reaches the church.
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