Kingdom of Asturias

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Expansion of the kingdom at the height of its power, late 9th / early 10th centuries

The Kingdom of Asturias ( Latin Asturorum regnum ) was the first Christian state in Gothic - Romanesque style, created by local rebels after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (711–719). It emerged from the initially tiny sphere of power of the Visigoth nobleman Pelayo (Latin Pelagius ), who successfully fought against the Muslims . Alfonso I (739–757) created the territorial basis for the survival and further expansion of the state. The kingdom reached the height of its power under Alfonso III. (866-910). He moved the capital from Oviedo to León and thus set the course for the development of the future Kingdom of León . After its disempowerment in 910, the Asturian kingdom was divided into three parts (León, Galicia and Asturias). After reunification in 924, it continued to be known as the Kingdom of León.


After the Battle of the Río Guadalete (711), the Moors subdued the entire Iberian Peninsula within a few years and destroyed the Visigoth Empire . Like other Gothic nobles, Pelayo initially came to terms with them. Only a private dispute with the Muslim governor Munuza, who was responsible for Asturias and who resided in Gijón , was the cause of the rebellion for him. He began to organize Christian resistance in the mountains. In 718 his followers elected him prince or king; this year is therefore considered to be the founding year of the initially tiny kingdom of Asturias. In 722 (or, as some researchers believe, as early as 718), Pelayo defeated a Muslim force at the Battle of Covadonga . This event is traditionally considered to mark the beginning of the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, but in reality it may have been just a skirmish. Under Pelayo's successors, the empire expanded.

In the middle of the 8th century , King Alfonso I managed to recapture large areas and a number of important cities from the Moors. He benefited from uprisings, periods of drought and, last but not least, the defeat of the Moors against the Franks in the battle of Tours and Poitiers in 732. Since he was unable to permanently secure all these areas militarily, he devastated a wide border zone and killed all Muslims he found there. So he created a strategic belt of devastation between his empire and the Muslim area, which should protect Asturias. Under his son and successor Fruela I , Galicia was subdued after the victory in the battle of Pontuvio ; In 761, the future capital Oviedo was founded near the battle site . Fruela I succeeded in weakening the Moors by raiding deep into the south. During his time, the Christian repopulation of conquered areas ( Repoblación ) began. Under Fruela's successors Aurelio , Silo and Mauregato there was peace with the Moors; only under Alfonso II (791–842) was the empire enlarged through further conquests.

The capital of the empire was initially Cangas de Onís . King Silo (774–783) moved the seat of government to Pravia . Finally Alfonso II made Oviedo his seat of power.

The reign of King Alfonso III brought the height of power and expansion of the Asturian Empire . (866-910). After his disempowerment in 910, his three sons divided the empire among themselves; in this way the sub-kingdoms of León, Galicia and Asturias were created. When they were reunified, the Kingdom of León, named after its capital, was created in 924 .

Link to the Visigoth Empire

For decades, the question of the extent to which there was continuity between the defunct Visigothic empire and the Asturian kingdom founded by Pelayo has been highly controversial in research. From the 9th century the idea was propagated at the Asturian royal court that the Asturian empire was a restoration of the Visigoth empire, which had been destroyed by God's wrath, but then renewed by Pelayo thanks to God's grace. The fight against the Muslims is thus a step-by-step reconquest ( reconquista ) of the once Visigoth Iberian Peninsula. The Asturian kings as legal successors to the Visigothic rulers are entitled to do this. This Asturian imperial ideology is known as Neo-Gothicism or Neo-Gothicism. Some of the researchers (including recently Julia Montenegro and Arcadio del Castillo) assume an actual continuity. Others are based on the results of Abilio Barbero and Marcelo Vigil, according to which the resistance against the Muslims in northern Spain initially came from the local population, who opposed foreign rule. Only much later was the Visigoth cultural heritage taken over and linked to the Visigoth imperial ideology; this legitimized the expansion of the Asturian Empire in the context of the Reconquista.

Ruler of Asturias

The cross as a "sign of victory"

Principality of Asturias

In an intended historical reminiscence of the former Kingdom of Asturias, which Christian historiography glorified as the nucleus of the Reconquista, King John I of Castile and León established the Principality of Asturias, which still exists today, in 1388 to provide material for the heir to the throne . Since then, the title of Prince of Asturias has been borne by the Castilian, later Spanish, Crown Prince , who, however, never held a special role in the government of the principality. Even in today's autonomous community " Principality of Asturias " ( Principado de Asturias in Spanish and Principáu d'Asturies in Asturian ), the prince does not have a special constitutional position.

See also

Source collections

  • Yves Bonnaz (Ed.): Chroniques asturiennes. Editions du Center national de la recherche scientifique, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-222-03516-3 (Latin texts with French translation and detailed French commentary).
  • Juan Gil Fernández (Ed.): Crónicas asturianas. Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo 1985, ISBN 84-600-4405-X ( Universidad de Oviedo. Publicaciones del Departamento de Historia Medieval 11), (Latin texts with Spanish translation).


  • Paulino García Toraño: Historia de el Reino de Asturias. Gráficas Summa, Oviedo 1986, ISBN 84-398-6586-4 .
  • Klaus Herbers : History of Spain in the Middle Ages. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-018871-2 .
  • Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz: Orígenes de la Nación Española. Estudios críticos sobre la historia del reino de Asturias. 3 volumes. Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, Oviedo 1972–1975, ISBN 84-00-04031-7 (basic, authoritative and very detailed presentation; some details out of date).
  • Ludwig Vones : History of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages 711-1480. Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1993, ISBN 3-7995-7113-2 .

Web links

Commons : Kingdom of Asturias  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. For the background and the prehistory of Pelayo's uprising see Jan Prelog: Die Chronik Alfons' III. , Frankfurt a. M. 1980, pp. 154f .; Roger Collins : The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797 , Oxford 1989, pp. 147-149; Yves Bonnaz: Chroniques asturiennes , Paris 1987, pp. 142f .; Ludwig Vones: History of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages 711-1480 , Sigmaringen 1993, p. 35f. The main source is the Chronicle of Alfonso III. (Editor B) 6.1, ed. by Yves Bonnaz, Chroniques asturiennes , Paris 1987, p. 38f .; on their credibility, see Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz: Orígenes de la Nación Española , Vol. 2, Oviedo 1974, pp. 86-89, 105-111.
  2. On the dating, see Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz: Orígenes de la Nación Española , Vol. 2, Oviedo 1974, pp. 97–135; Roger Collins: The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797 , Oxford 1989, pp. 82f. and 150; Yves Bonnaz: Chroniques asturiennes , Paris 1987, p. 152f .; see. Alexander Pierre Bronisch: Reconquista und Heiliger Krieg , Münster 1998, p. 95. Luis A. García Moreno represents an extremely late dating (around 737): Covadonga, realidad y leyenda , in: Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 194 (1997) Pp. 353-380.
  3. Sources: Chronicle of Alfonso III. (Editorial offices A and B) 6.1, ed. by Yves Bonnaz, Chroniques asturiennes , Paris 1987, pp. 40-44, 148 (representation from an Asturian perspective); Spanish translation of the Arabic source texts by Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz: Orígenes de la Nación Española , Vol. 2, Oviedo 1974, pp. 140f. Note 10.
  4. Alexander Pierre Bronisch: Reconquista and Holy War. The interpretation of the war in Christian Spain from the Visigoths to the early 12th century , Münster 1998, p. 4f .; Alexander Pierre Bronisch: The Visigoth imperial ideology and its further development in the empire of Asturias , in: Franz-Reiner Erkens (Hrsg.): Das earlymedalterliche Königtum, Berlin 2005, p. 161-189, especially p. 182f. and note 82.