The surprising circus inside San Miguel de Lillo

The rewards for those intrepid travelers who hustle up Mount Naranco in a heavy rainstorm are manifold.

Exhibit A: San Miguel de Lillo.


This petite beauty has been rewarding water-logged church lovers since 848. Dear readers, I’m afraid I need to insist that you GO TO OVIEDO.  Northern Spain is stunning and Oviedo is an architecture lover’s dream.  Just have a look at Santa María del Naranco (only a short walk away from San Miguel de Lillo) if you need further convincing.


San Miguel de Lillo is–are you sitting down?–a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The buttresses and barrel vaulting of this church are structurally innovative, a Pre-Romanesque forecast of architecture that would not be widespread in Europe for at least another 200 years.


Even the majestic Infamous Blue Traveling Poncho can’t hold a candle to the compact perfection of San Miguel de Lillo.


Can I get some ooohs and aaaahs for these stone lattice-work windows?



Inside the church are traces of original frescos, though we had difficulty seeing them in the low interior light.


Just behind the entry are delightful circus-themed reliefs.  I haven’t seen a great deal of Asturian sculpture, but what I’ve encountered so far has been quite stylized and absolutely charming.

We weren’t allowed to take interior photos, so these shots are courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons, photos by Ángel M. Felicísimo from Mérida, España


‘Cause every circus has to have a lion, a tumbling acrobat, and a whip-wielding lion tamer.  (Also, that lion tamer’s belly….WTF?!?  Is it some sort of early medieval spaghetti strainer?)

Now that I’ve convinced you to visit Oviedo, I have one more piece of advice: take the bus.  Now don’t get me wrong–the trains in Northern Spain are clean and comfortable with million-dollar views.  However, every single train we travelled in was late, often annoyingly late, as in two hours late.  The two ALSA buses we took, one into Oviedo and another out, were perfection: comfy and pleasant (even the bathrooms were decent) and they ran on time.  The second bus even had an attendant who served us coffee.  Free coffee service on a bus!  Now that’s civilization.



How we got to Oviedo: bus from Santiago de Compostela.

Where we slept: Gran Hotel España.  Price: €39.69 for a double.  Recommended: yes.



  1. I am going to Spain for the first time this fall and I’m so excited. These pictures look amazing! Such amazing history. Thanks so much for sharing!


    1. Thank you for reading! Spain is truly enchanting–where are you headed?


      1. I know Barcelona for sure. I have yet to plan the rest. Any recommendations? We will not have a car and we only have a week.


  2. It’s hard to recommend just one place because it’s all so wonderful. I like to start with UNESCO sites and work from there. Have a spectacular trip!


  3. Beautiful! Yes, you are intrepid! And I see why you need waterproof shoes. A style of waterproof shoes should be named after you!


    1. LOL! WOB’s Waterproof Wonders?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would totally buy WOB’s Waterproof Wonders!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. beautiful! even though it looks really strange in the first picture / copy/paste like O_O


    1. Thank you. It seems strange because there’s no square or plaza surrounding it–like it’s just a church plunked down on a mountain.


  5. We got used to trains in Spain being late! Our conclusion was that they were simply too ambitious thinking each stop would only take 2 minutes!
    We are traveling later in the year for an extended time in Italy – seems like a poncho will be essential as it is a constant feature in your photos.

    Ps – really enjoy reading about your travels.


    1. Thanks for reading browney237. I didn’t mind them be late as much for myself, as that we had people waiting for us at various b&bs that couldn’t go home until we showed up for keys.

      I hope you don’t need a poncho in Italy!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never been to Spain but it’s definitely near the top of our list of places to visit. I’m trying to get everyone in my family on board for a trip to Barcelona sometime in 2016. Afterwards, maybe hubby and I will do some touring throughout the North. Question on communication – do you and/or HOB speak Spanish? I’m wondering if I’d need a refresher on my high school Spanish in some of the smaller towns, or if English is fairly prevalent?

    Also, I love reliefs, especially stone – they add so much life and detail to churches!


    1. I hope you do make it to Spain–it’s so gorgeous!

      My language skills are terrible, though I did manage to limp along with my bad Spanish. In the smaller towns English was not prevalent, so if you are going to smaller places definitely brush up on your high school Spanish.


  7. Thanks for that. I am spanish and I didn’t know San Miguel de Lillo. I really have to visit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading travelamos–you’re lucky to be from a country with such amazing cultural heritage!

      I’d really like to visit Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos the next time I’m in Spain. Have you been there yet?


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