It belongs to the parish of El Fresno in the council of Grado. It is located in the hill that separates the basins of the rivers Nalón and Narcea, in a place known by the name of Partido de los Montes. Two important routes cross in the area, the Roman road of the Royal Way of La Mesa, which runs through the region from north to south, and the Primitive Way of Saint James which runs from east to west. The origins of the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Fresno some historians place it in the ninth century, as it is believed that where today there is a large stone cross, next to the cemetery, is where the first church was erected. The current sanctuary dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, although it underwent numerous alterations during the 17th and 18th centuries. Due to its privileged location it has been the centre of disputes in different wars, which has caused its structure to be damaged at its origin and later rebuilt, as happened during the War of Independence when the French fortified the church and set fire to the tower that was rebuilt around 1870. The cult in the temple was officiated by the chaplain of the parish of Santa Eulalia de las Dorigas, to which El Fresno belonged until the end of the nineteenth century, as it was in the year 1876 when it gained its independence as a parish. In the Civil War, in 1936, the sanctuary was ransacked and the first image of the Virgen del Fresno disappeared.
The floor plan of the church building, originally popular Baroque, is one of the most complex in the area. From outside you can see the bell tower at the foot of the temple, and exercising as its base a portico with three semicircular arches, one in front and the other two one on each side, are the access to the central nave of the temple. In the interior a cross testifies to the passage through the place of the Jacobean route, also attracts attention an image of Christ crucified, to which the people have a great devotion, a Baroque altarpiece, and another dedicated to San Antonio of the seventeenth century, the High Altar is also of great beauty. On the left side of the church is the chapel of the Virgen del Fresno that was rebuilt in 1979, but its belfry is the original of the primitive hermitage, which was located where the cemetery is today; the carving of the virgin that houses was made in 1975 to replace the original image that disappeared during a looting in the Civil War. On the other side, on the right, is the sacristy that looks like another small chapel with bulrush and bell. In the esplanade and in front of the main façade, the transept and the cemetery remind us that once, back in the 9th century that place was the location of the primitive hermitage.
The Virgen del Fresno is celebrated on 8 and 28 September with liturgical acts, celebrations and pilgrimages that take place in the sanctuary.
The festivity of 28 September is preceded by a novena, Novena de San Miguel, which according to tradition begins on 21 September at four o'clock in the afternoon and ends on 29 September, which is the feast of the three archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whose images are venerated in the parish church. Tradition has it that, in other times, the pilgrims who passed through here were called "the novenas" since they spent the night in the Casa de las Novenas and if they stayed for several days they would attend the novena. As this religious service was a fervent custom deeply rooted, there were times when the pilgrims were so numerous that the neighbors gave them hospitality and when everything was busy even slept in hórreos, bread baskets and tenadas, tents.
From the sanctuary, on clear days, you can see the tower of the cathedral of Oviedo.
There is a typical prayer in the liturgy of the Novena of St. Michael which is very old, thought to be from the end of the seventeenth century and which reads as follows: Oh, Most Holy Virgin of Fresno! Aware of your mercy and obliged by the evils that afflict us daily in this valley of tears, we lift our eyes towards you, waiting confidently for your help. Be for us, O Virgin of the Fresno, luminous beacon that guides us, guardian angel that defends us, firm staff that supports us, advocate and protector that intercedes for us before the God of mercies. For our part we detest our faults and we ask you to obtain forgiveness for them and the graces we hope to obtain in this novena, if it is to be for the greater glory of God, honor your souls and the good of our souls. Oral tradition tells us that many people came to the very famous novena of Saint Michael and that they went up the steep slope on their knees to the sanctuary guided by his great fervor.
Grado is accessed through the regional road AS-237 which connects it with Pravia and Avilés, also the AS-311 links Grado with Villabre, the AS-312 with Otero and through the AS-313 connects with Trubia. Grado is also reached by the A-63 Oviedo-La Espina motorway and the national N-634 that connects San Sebastián with La Coruña. A local road network connects Grado with nearby towns. Grado has a regular bus service that connects it with Oviedo and other towns in the autonomous community. Another bus line runs the Grado-Avilés route; in addition, on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are market days, there are other interurban lines linking the rural population centres with Grado. The town's bus station is located in Avda. de los Deportes. Grado has a train station located at Calle Jove y Valdés, S/N. A line covers the Oviedo-San Esteban de Pravia route and a regional line links Oviedo-Ferrol. For further information the telephone number is 985 982 381.
Once in Grado to get to the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Fresno we can follow the national road N-634 that joins Grado and Cornellana, or we can do it through the CN-632 in the direction of the Cabruñana. In both cases we must take the road that leads to the village of El Fresno, where a little more than 500 meters we find the sanctuary. You can also get there from Grado, following the route along which the Primitive Way to Santiago runs.
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