The Ministry of Culture and Sports has completed the project for the conservation and restoration of the paintings and wall coverings of the Oviedo church of San Miguel de Lillodeclared World Heritage by Unesco in 1985, and one of the most outstanding exponents of Asturian pre-Romanesque.
The conservation and restoration intervention, promoted by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE) With the collaboration of the General Directorate of Heritage of the Principality of Asturias, it started in July 2018 and has meant an investment of 700,940.59 euros.
The greatest achievement of this project, together with the enhancement of these plastic manifestations, has been the expansion of the catalog of known pictorial remains, recovered after the removal of the coatings applied in the different historical restorations, a succession of heterogeneous and discordant coatings. that presented a dangerous state of deterioration.
Along with the well-known pictorial representations, such as the famous figures of the “Enthroned” and the “Musician” of the southern nave, the work of the IPCE has brought out more geometric and vegetal motifs in the five vaults (lateral and central naves, portico and tribune), a possible scene in the western cloth of the central nave, and the late Gothic religious painting of the apse, where the coats of arms of the Solís and Álvarez families appear.
A graffiti from the Civil War
The intervention in the paintings and wall coverings of San Miguel de Lillo has revealed the fine texture of the interesting bas-relief sculpture repertoire located in jambs, story bases, openwork lattices, capitals, pilasters, threads of arches, and an endless number of rope imposts. Likewise, the diaphanous vision has been restored to the tracery and openwork lattices that close the large windows with the replacement in all openings of new blown glass that allows adequate ventilation. It is also of interest to highlight the recovery of a graffiti, made during the Civil War, in one of the chambers located on the porch, flanking the rostrum.
The project, started in July 2018, has been directed by the conservator-restorer of the IPCE and also an archaeologist Margarita González Pascual, and made by the ARTYCO company. The works allowed, in a first phase, the graphic documentation of the paintings, the characterization of their materials, the investigation of biodeterioration and the microclimatic study of the property. Subsequently, the removal of non-original cladding, the structural review of walls and vaults and the watertightness of the walls, as well as the review of the state of conservation of the openings and different stone elements were addressed.
Early medieval and Romanesque mortars were thoroughly consolidated, perimeter edges were sealed, and masonry joints were trimmed; In those areas essential for the correct integration of the walls, a new lime mortar was replaced. Finally, all surfaces were cleaned.
Color reintegration has not been contemplated, since the objective of the intervention has been the conservation of tonal intensity and shape, without completing the numerous gaps. After the thorough cleaning of all the surfaces, abundant concretions and several lime layers were removed, which hid the original shape and color of the painting.
During the execution of the project, it was necessary to undertake a emergency intervention to solve structural problems that affected various points of the temple. These works involved an investment of 36,977.77 euros.
Built in the 9th century
Located on the southern slope of Mount Naranco, on the outskirts of Oviedo, the temple of San Miguel de Lillo is part of a group of monuments erected between the 9th and 10th centuries in the primitive Kingdom of Asturias and which stand out for the quality of their art, for their state of conservation and for being a representation of western culture in its early medieval roots. San Miguel de Lillo was built in the 9th century by order of the Asturian king Ramiro I. In the middle of the 11th century it suffered a partial collapse that left only a third of its structure standing, corresponding to the monumental façade and the first section of the naves.
At the end of this century or the beginning of the 12th, this fragmentary building was consolidated with a new factory that closed the diaphragm arches of the lateral naves and incorporated a rudimentary rectangular head in the central nave. This constructive process configured a building that is characterized by its small plant, in contrast to the great slenderness of its barrel vaults.