San Miguel de Lillo

San Miguel de Lillo
San Miguel de Lillo

The pre-Romanesque church of San Miguel de Lillo is one of the best of pre-Romanesque architecture that has survived to this day. Located in Asturias, the temple is a clear example of palatial architecture, that is, a temple that has been built within a palatial complex, in this case it would be the Naranco monumental complex formed by the primitive palace of Santa María del Naranco -later it would be consecrated as a church- and the church of San Miguel de Lillo.


The temple would date from the year 842 so it would be within the architecture of the Ramirense period and it seems that originally it must have been dedicated to Saint Michael and Saint Mary. The construction was made of ashlars and limestone ashlars. The temple suffered major damage in which the head area was lost and a large part of the paintings that decorated its walls were destroyed.

Of the area that is still preserved, you can see at the foot of the temple the presence of a royal tribune, a place reserved for the monarch from where he could witness the services with more privacy. Access to the grandstand is via a staircase located on the side of the foot gate. From the feet three parallel naves started, of which the central one was narrower and higher than the lateral ones and covered by a banded barrel vault similar to the one found on the upper floor.of the adjoining palace of Santa María del Naranco.

The side naves have also been covered with barrel vaults and are separated from the central nave by columns with conical capitals and high bases, a rather peculiar fact within Asturian pre-Romanesque architecture where the most common is the use of pillars as supporting elements and also to separate the naves. Outside the temple, the buttresses that must have acted as a supporting element of the composition and that originally must have been higher and thicker are still visible.

In San Miguel de Lillo, it is worth highlighting not only the remains of its architecture but also its decoration. Thus we find sculpted reliefs on the access door jambs which are possibly based on a diptych of Byzantine origin dating from the 6th century AD. C. and which is currently housed in the Saint Petersburg Museum. Each one of the jambs represents three figurative scenes in which a tamer with a lion and some mountebanks are represented. It seems that these circus figures were used in Lillo as well as in the St. Petersburg relief to highlight the regal character of the works.

As for the pictorial decoration, there are two types of scenes: on the one hand, those with plant and architectural motifs similar to those we can find in Santullano and which would be of the time of Alfonso II and others, much newer, that represent human figures and that would date from the Ramirense period.

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