Gijón, the capital of the Green Coast and the economic engine of the Principality of Asturias, is a city full of history and life.
Mount Deva today harbours the vestiges of the area’s first inhabitants, although it is the Castro Noega ancient fortified settlement that most clearly transports us back to prehistoric Gijón. This huge plain, stretching to the sea, today called the Campa de Torres, evokes the legacy of Asturias’s bygone clan los cilúrnigos, their constructions, wall, and round buildings -and also their Romanization.
The town would be dubbed Gigia when it was incorporated into the Roman Empire by the 4th Macedonian Legion.
In the 8th century, after the Muslim invasion of the Peninsula, Asturias became the last stronghold of the Visigoth Kingdom, under the historic figure of Don Pelayo, King of Asturias, Oviedo and Gijón, who initiated the Reconquest, at the battle of Covadonga. Thus was born the Kingdom of Asturias and, although Pelayo remained in Gijón for a long time, he did not establish his capital there. Rather, it moved southward as the kingdom expanded, until reaching Toledo.
The artistic style that defines this era is the Asturian pre-Romanesque, which would last until the 10th century. Its origins may be appreciated at the Gijón monastery of Santa María de Veranes, in Cenero. Today only some archaeological vestiges remain, but they constitute the first evidence of the presence of Christianity in Asturias.
From Gijón hailed such illustrious figures as Count Diego Rodríguez Poncellos, founder of Burgos in 884.
And, almost 10 centuries later, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, one of the great figures of the Enlightenment in Spain, was born here. His commitment to Gijón had a great impact: he founded the Royal Institute of Navigation and Mineralogy with a view to promoting the area’s industrialization and transport links with the Spanish meseta, or upland, and enthusiastically supported the creation of Gijón’s port, El Musel.
Strolling through Cimadevilla, the old fishing district, is an experience that connects Gijón’s past and its great vitality today.
Next to the sea is the Church of San Pedro, of Gothic origins, rebuilt after the Civil War and reflecting influences from the Asturian Romanesque and pre-Romanesque. Nearby, in the Plaza del Marqués, across from the marina and the statue of Don Pelayo, stands the Palacio de Revillagigedo, today an art exhibition hall. Adjacent to it is the Collegiate Church of San Juan Bautista, in the same style and also dating from the 18th century.
Removed from the centre, a must-visit is the Universidad Laboral. The largest building in Spain, it once accommodated more than 3,000 students, but was ultimately abandoned in the 1980s. Gijón’s commitment to knowledge and innovation, however, has led to the revitalisation of this great space, today harbouring multiple cultural, educational and business initiatives. This bold undertaking is similar to the city’s creation of its Atlantic Botanical Garden, inaugurated in 2003 and today housing more than 3,000 species, organized into four natural environments.
Gijón is much more than its history. It also has a very appealing present, and a bright future ahead of it. You have to explore it!