Due to the complexity of its interior layout and plan, Santa Cristina de Lena is a unique case in Asturian architecture. It has a single access, which speaks in favor of its use by an undifferentiated community of faithful, strictly dedicated to the service of a monastery. The richness of the iconographic program that can be sensed in the capitals and lattices of the interior contributes to this impression, as well as the technical mastery of its project, subject to harmonic metric relationships.
For its dating we only have indirect elements, such as the date of one of the latticework reused in the triumphal arch -year 643-, the chronology that can be attributed to the remaining reused pieces -7th century- and the great security that exists on the use that Lena's teacher made of the elevation of Naranco. All this authorizes to propose a date around the year 850 and subsequent decades. The current appearance of the temple is largely the result of the restoration carried out in the years 1892-1893, to which are added the repairs of the damage suffered in the 1934 Revolution.
It is a building with a single nave, to which four protruding bodies are attached, aligned according to the two axes of symmetry, which correspond to two side rooms, a portico with a superimposed chamber and a raised chapel. The entire perimeter stands on a plinth. The walls are made up of irregular courses of limestone slabs and ashlars on the outside, reserving the rope and brand masonry for the corners. The walls are regularly traversed by stirrups, as elements of wall articulation. Only two original windows remain, located on the north façade of the northern chamber and on the east façade of the chapel. Both are vain triphores, with little columns reused from looting.
Inside, the articulation of the walls consists of blind arches that run along the North, South and East walls. In the central spandrels of the three arches there are five medallions and two rectangular plates, with a palpable memory of the system of the upper central room of Santa María de Naranco.
In the eastern sector, the presbyterial space is elevated and separated by a striking triumphal arch, under which the gate is placed. It is accessed through paths lateral stairs. The altar could be arranged inside the chapel, being almost invisible to the public. To the west a gallery rises, which advances over the space of the nave, and takes advantage of the hole of the chamber located on the entrance portico. This structure is undoubtedly the product of a constructive reform. European typological parallels authorize dating this reform from the late eleventh century. All the rooms of this interior complex are vaulted with canyons built in calcareous tuff stone.
In front of the chapel and delimiting to the west the space raised almost one meter from the level of the nave, in a second construction phase a spectacular triumphal arch with three bays was raised, which is the sculptural jewel of the interior of the temple. For its installation, a previous structure was demolished, whose traces can be seen today on the side walls. The new arch is made up of three cambered semicircular openings, on reused columns, which end in Corinthian capitals. Openwork lattices have been placed in the eardrums of the arcades. Between the shafts are the panels and the central bar of the gate, with incomplete inscriptions.
Esta imagen no sería posible sin la colaboración de la Consejería de Cultura, Política Llingüística y Turismo, Gobierno del Principado de Asturias, España.
Historically isolated from the rest of Spain by its high mountains, Asturias claims to be a Natural Paradise. It hosts many World Heritage features and gets world wide media coverage every year when the 'Prince of Asturias Awards' winners' names are announced.