GR105.2 - Camín del Oriente - Stage 3
Corao - Abamia - Cruz de Priena - Cuadonga/Covadonga
Corao - Cuadonga/Covadonga
We start the route in the chestnut grove, with its centuries-old trees and whimsical shapes. The route, with a wide path, passes over the river Güeña and after a turn comes out onto the road, which also leads from the village to the church of Santa Eulalia de Abamia. This is an important Romanesque church next to which you will see three fine examples of yew trees.
Santa Eulalia, according to tradition, was built by Don Pelayo, at whose time it was destined to be a monastery and reformed in the 10th century. Our Asturian king was buried there, together with his wife Gaudiosa, in the early years of the 12th century. His remains were later transferred to Covadonga.
Ambrosio de Morales, a chronicler in the service of Philip II, wrote in his accounts that the church was very small, in keeping with all the churches of those times, and on the outside, close to it, was the burial place of the king, and somewhat further away that of his wife: "...they have built a new, larger church because of its large membership, and so the burial place of the King is inside, and that of his wife outside....". They have built again the largest church because of its large membership, so that the burial place of the King remains inside and that of his wife outside...".
Today, in the nave of the church, in the section closest to the chancel, there are two cenotaphs at ground level, under arcosoliums. The one on the epistle side has only a chiselled sword on the cover, and is attributed to Don Pelayo; the other side, on the Gospel side, is trapezoidal in shape and has an inscription, which translated reads: "Here lies Queen Gaudiosa, wife of King Pelayo", an inscription dating from the 17th century.
Ambrosio de Morales himself writes that "The day I was there was a Sunday, and it seemed that the Royal of King Pelayo was there, as there were more than two hundred spears stuck around the church, of those who came to Mass in those heaths and can find a bear, of which there are plenty, and they want to have something to defend themselves against...".
The church was abandoned over the years, and little remains of the original nave. It was declared a Monument of Historic-Artistic Interest, by Decree of 15-3-62, and in recent years it has been mostly restored thanks to the concern of the parish priest Fermín Alonso, the mayor and the residents of Corao, as well as the Caja de Asturias. There is also another small story linked to Corao and Santa Eulalia de Abamia: to the right of the church, there is a small cemetery, abandoned, where there was a very modest tomb invaded by weeds, whose greenery contrasted almost angrily with the blackish background of a tombstone crossed by the scar of a crack that threatened to break it.
Separating the ivy, one could barely read "Here lies Roberto Frassinelli Brurnitz". The famous character, the "German from Corao" as he was known in his time, and who had been celebrated in his lifetime for his worth, lay there in neglect and oblivion. Frassinelli, born German, the son of an Italian and a German, arrived in Corao around 1844 at the age of 43 and died there 33 years later. A pilgrim in search of peace and health, he found the desired horizon in Asturias. An extraordinary draughtsman with a profound knowledge of architecture and archaeology, he discovered the dolmen of Abamia and so many old stones, some born beyond the historical barrier and others plunged fully into it. The craggy hills of the Picos de Europa were picked up by his pencil and recreated in it.
Their chasms also felt the imprint of Frassinelli, who plucked mineral secrets from their entrails. He, too, vibrated like the best Asturian, before Covadonga, pouring his knowledge into it. We owe him the Sanctuary of the Grotto, which was alive until the Civil War. The beginning of the present Basilica is attributed to him. Don Pedro Pidal wrote of him: "Intimate friend of those stone towers; of those solitary lakes; of that region inaccessible to every fearful spirit, to every insecure plant, to every spirit untouched by the irresistible love of the infinite that enveloped the great companion Roberto Frassinelli".
Today, the dark slate grey stone, overgrown with undergrowth, is no longer the shelter of the remains of "the German from Corao", fused with Asturian soil. The action of the Group of Mountain Veterans, with the approval of the Parish and the Cultural Artistic Heritage, overcame the battered tomb of Roberto Frassinelli, moving it to the church of Abamia so that his memory will live on in the history, which in part he made, of the lands of Corao. Fermín Alonso, parish priest of Corao, a bricklayer and an anonymous veteran mountaineer were involved in the transfer of his remains. His tomb and inscription can be seen at the back left of the nave.
From the church of Abamia we walk towards the nearby houses of Cuetu-Aleos, the path, which climbs up through a grove of trees and comes out onto the track at a crossroads, leads us to more open ground next to the huts of La Canal. All along this route, the Senda Frassinelli welcomes those coming from Teleña on the left. There is a succession of huts in the places of La Cruz and Orientes, and when the new track goes uphill to the left, you must leave the Frassinelli Route and, on the right, change direction towards Andoreñu, a group of old huts on the right, to come out onto open meadows, dominating the whole stretch of the ascent towards Priena. You will pass Les Fuentines, with a large watering place, and further on, on the left, you will see the stone wall of a farm. When you reach its height, change course to the right, following the path, which will take you to higher meadows. Continue to the left and always in the direction of the Cruz de Priena, through the fields of Collía, which give way to a rocky stretch, coming out at the final crossing that takes you to the cross, which you will already be seeing, as well as the final stage of your route, the Real Sitio.
This cross, installed in 1907, was erected "in memory of the complete victory of the Christians and their leader Don Pelayo over the Arabs" according to the Chapter Acts of the Cabildo of Covadonga in October 1906. From Priena the landscape is beautiful, peaceful, with all the mountains that can be seen and surround us. From the cross, descend to the left as you look towards Covadonga, towards the bottom of the meadow, and you will find the Cuesta Ginés path, which descends halfway down the slope, from the La Oración pass, in large loops. Covadonga gets closer and even the candles of the altar of the Virgin can be seen on its descent.
The whole place is complete and beautiful: the cave, the basilica, the statue of Pelayo, and even the path that you will take on the final stretch, which you will see on the right of the road that goes up to the Sanctuary. At the end, almost at the bottom, the well-marked path that you have been following becomes a path through a small wood, which leads you to the road, which you must continue on the left, and after a few hundred metres at the end of the car park on the right of the road, opposite the Priena country house, you will enter the Parque del Príncipe, which is marked with an old sign and is a fundamental enclave of the Royal Site of Covadonga. The creation of this garden coincided with the creation of the National Park, and it was the place where Don Alfonso XIII planted a tree on the day of the inauguration of the Park. This area through which our path passes crossed the old pilgrims' and pilgrims' path when the current road did not exist.
You will pass next to the old inn Hostal Favila, -right of the path- a beautiful building built during the reign of Carlos III, which served as a pilgrims' hostel until the end of the last century. It was later restored and became the headquarters of the Escolanía de Covadonga. A paved path and a small track will take you to the road, leaving the road next to the lions and the channeling of the river Díva that comes from the "chorrón" under the grotto.
All that remains is to climb the stairs of "la promesa" (the promise) and present yourself to La Santina.
Texts: Antonio Alba Moratilla