Room 1. Local History and Culture

Grau/Grado in medieval and modern times


Plan of Grau/Grado and its surroundings in 1812. General Military Archive in Madrid. SH Collection. Sig. 0-2/23.

The history of the town begins in the Middle Ages. Around 1252-56, Alfonso X granted the town charter, recognising its status as a town attached to the king with legal and administrative rights, making it the capital of its territory or “alfoz”. Among other privileges, it was granted powers to appoint municipal officials (aldermen, judges, notaries, etc.) and to hold the weekly market. It was at this point that the wall and moat surrounding the main town were built, of which some remains have been preserved. Craftsmen and traders settled in the town, and it soon grew outside the walls, around the main square and along the path of the Way of St. James that crosses it. The Romanesque parish church, dedicated to San Pedro, and the hospital in the square were also built, both of which no longer exist.

The town's prosperity soon attracted the interest of the aristocratic classes, who tried to control it. Count Gonzalo Peláez de Coalla, lord of several castles and a famous Asturian bandit, tried to subject it under his jurisdiction to increase his power in the area. After years of pillaging and plundering in the council, in 1308 he assaulted and set fire to the town. The inhabitants of Grau/Grado then joined forces with those of Oviedo/Uviéu to defend their liberties and council rights, fighting him until he was defeated thanks to the intervention of the royal army.

The families of the local nobility formed the «Nobles guilds and lineages» from the 15th  century onwards, a group of noble families that controlled the power and the municipal offices, which led to various lawsuits with the residents until their disappearance in 1783. These aristocratic families built urban palaces in the town, such as the Miranda-Valdecarzana Palace and the Dolores Chapel, the Fernández Miranda House, the Tejeiro House and the Fontela Palace, among others, as proof of their power.

Grau/Grado in the contemporary era

Plan of the town of Grau/Grado around 1930. Historical Archives of the Council of Grau/Grado.

In 1808, the town suffered the effects of the Napoleonic invasion. The French army crossed Grau/Grado on its way to Oviedo/Uviéu and confronted the local volunteer soldiers who tried to stop it in Peñaflor. In return, the town was looted and burnt, and throughout the war, occupied up to four times by the French army, which fortified itself in the area around the wall and faced the local resistance.  

From the second half of the 19th century onwards, the town experienced significant urban growth in tandem with commercial and industrial development. Communications with the rest of the region improved thanks to the building of the main road (N-634) in 1859 and the arrival of the railway in 1904. The «moscona» town aimed to become a modern middle-class town, for which it was provided with numerous public buildings (schools, new church, slaughterhouse, livestock market, park, and promenades) and urban infrastructures (electric lighting, sewage system, paved streets and pavements, etc.). New streets were created, where modern and elegant buildings were constructed, and the historic centre was renovated. Among the new modern buildings and workers’ dwellings, the great residences of the middle class and the Indian chalets built along the main road stand out.  

The tragic parenthesis of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) had a major impact upon life in the town. Grau/Grado became the epicentre of the operations over Oviedo/Uviéu by the rebel army (“the Grau/Grado corridor”) and surrounded by the Republican forces. Heavy battles were fought in the surrounding area, and it suffered the effects of the bombing of the town centre and the subsequent repression of its inhabitants. 

After the war, Grau/Grado took up its economic and commercial activity again, and continued its urban and demographic growth, keeping its role as the head of the county and its specialisation in the service sector until the present day. 


Grau/Grado and its territory

The geography of the region is divided into two areas: the wide valley formed by the veiga and the river basin formed by the Cubia river and its tributaries, with a mountainous relief. In the vast rural area, we find an interesting cultural landscape, transformed, and shaped by its inhabitants over the centuries. 

Among many other places, the ethnographic ensembles that can be found in its villages stand out, such as Tolinas, Santianes de Molenes, Baselgas, Sama or Peñaflor. It is also worth mentioning the rich historical and artistic heritage of the region, with elements such as the churches of Castañéu, Samartín, Restiellu, La Mata and the sanctuary of Freisnu. In terms of civil architecture, the palaces of Vayu, Báscones or Augüera are of interest. There are also remains of the fortifications from the Spanish Civil War, which had a strong impact on the area.

Two historic roads cross the area. The Camín Real de la Mesa, a route of pre-Roman origin that for centuries was one of the main routes of communication with the Iberian plateau, and the primitive way of St. James (which runs along the route of the old road between Oviedo/Uviéu and Galicia), that crosses the region from east to west and goes through the historic centre of the town.  


Fragment of limestone pillar, retrieved in 2017, which is thought to have formed part of the justice roll of the town of Grau/Grado, which disappeared in 1842. According to Fernández de Miranda, the roll consisted of a column on five steps, crowned by a lion later replaced by a cone. It was in the town’s main square, today known as Plaza General Ponte.