This robust fortification – with walls reaching a thickness of 1´40 metres – is closely linked to the Holy Chamber of the cathedral. No certain data on its construction are available, but there are sufficient archaeological, epigraphic and topographic arguments to date it around the same years as the Holy Chamber, that is to say, 884-885. It seems to be the fortification destined to protect the treasure room of the cathedral, which can be identified as the Holy Chamber, from pirate assaults – either Norman or Muslim.
This building, at present the Romanesque steeple of the cathedral, located on the less protected flank of the Holy Chamber, is made up by two differentiated buildings resulting from two constructive boosts.
The first of these constitutes the lower body of the tower. It is an irregular quadrangular floor plan construction, without external openings up to a considerable height, and with a robust door on the Northern façade, allowing for communication with the basilica of San Salvador. The bond shows the characteristic High Middle Ages masonry with small rectangular blocks, settled on regular rows. Inside, the wall suffers successive offsets, destined both to reduce its thickness and to allow the wooden frameworks of the floors.
A recent archaeological excavation has revealed it is based directly on the country rock, without a foundation flange, except on the Northern side, where this is apparent.
In the last third of the 11th century – probably under the pontificate of Ariano (1073-1094) – this fortification received the body of the steeple, open to the exterior by means of coupled openings on each façade, resting over reduced groin vaults and finished off by a cloister vault. The bond is of neat ashlar, its execution hardly requiring three workers. The inside of the upper vault is joined by two transverse arches crossing in the direction of the axes, externally corresponding to beams over corbels supported by animal modillions. All eight openings finish up in semicircular arches over columns with sixteen capitals, mainly of vegetation.
The typology of Torre Vieja (Old Tower) shares constructive features, in the project and the execution, with other well-known coastal fortifications equally attributed to Alfonso III: the towers of the West, in Catoira, closing the entrance to the estuary of river Ulla and protecting the access to Santiago de Compostela, a sanctuary particularly looked after by Alfonso III, the true creator of the diocese and promoter of the cult of the apostle.
Oviedo. Cathedral of San Salvador. Plaza de Alfonso II El Castro.
985 21 96 42 (Holy Chamber)
985 20 31 17 (museum)
November to February:
Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00 h. 7th December, from 10:00 to 13:00 h. and from 16:00 to 17:00 h. Closed, 8th and 9th December.
March, April, May and October:
Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00 h.
Monday to Friday, from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00 h. Saturdays, from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00 h.
July and August
Monday to Friday, from 10:00 to 20:00 h. Saturdays, from 10:00 to 18:00 h.
Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 19:00 h. Saturdays, from 10:00 to 18:00 h. And from 14th and 21st, from 10:00 to 17:00 h.
Last entrance 1 hour before the cathedral closes.
Closed: It will remain closed to visitors on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and on Saturdays from 6:00pm. Closed, 8th and 9th December.
General entry to the Cathedral
Individuals (including audio guide), 13-65 years of age: 7.00 €.
Pensioners (including audio guide), groups of over 15 people and every Tuesday: 6.00 €.
Schoolchildren from 12-18 years of age accompanied by a teacher, university students: 5,00 €.
Accredited pilgrims, large families and the unemployed: 4.00 €.
Partial tour* (Holy Chamber, Museum, Cloister)
Whenever liturgical celebrations are being held in the Central Nave.
General public: 5.00 €.
Accredited pilgrims, large families and the unemployed: 3.00 €.
Group rates, accompanied by accredited guides:
Full Visit: 5.00 €.
Partial Visit: 4.00 € (Only when religious celebrations are being held in the Central Nave).
Whenever liturgical celebrations are being held, there are only "partial" visits (Holy Chamber, Museum and Cloister)
Mass, check: catedraldeoviedo.com.