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One of the greater architectural jewels we can contemplate in the region of Liébana, is in the village of Piasca. Around the monastery and church of Santa María, rotated great part of the valley´s history. This church was declared national monument in 1930.

We know there was a first written document about the monastery of Santa María de Piasca, in 930, when Teoda and Aragonti gave it to the village; "ubi ipsa bassilica fundata est". In 941 a group of 36 nuns, under the direction of the abbess Aylo, and by the rule of San Fructuoso, made a monastic pact, settling down with other male monks in a double community, until in 1078, doña Urraca, who was the abbess then, passed over to the convent of San Pedro de Dueñas, loosing this duplicity and depending from that moment to the Monastery of San Benito de Sahagún, as a priory.


The XI and XII centuries were the most important for the monastery´s life; It will be during the XII century when they will receive important donations from monasteries incorporating to Piasca: San Salvador de Buyezo, San Martín de Tornes and Santa Cecilia de Ubriezo, as well as San Martín de Aniezo in 1209. The XIV century marks the beginning of the monastery´s decline, notably descending the donations. In the XVII and XVIII centuries only a dozen monks lived in it, and in 1835, with the Desamortization, it became a parish church.

Today the entrance to the church is through a pointed arch giving way to a building that must have been part of the dependencies from the old monastery. Then, a marvellous sight of the church appears in front of us, on the western wall. The door´s arch is slightly pointed, remembering Gothic reminiscences. It presents five archivolts on shafts, with beautiful capitals and fine carvings. The archivolts have artistic carvings in vegetable and historical motives. Over the main door, on the bullrush wall, there´s a vaulted niche with three arcades supported by capitals, where we can contemplate an image of the Virgin with Child in the centre, from the XVI century, substituting the old Romanesque one; to the left, a figure of San Pedro, and to the right, San Pablo. These two sculptures are Romanesque and original, from the time when the church was constructed.


On a fine grain headstone, stuffed in the left side of the wall where the main church´s door is, there´s an inscription reminding the world´s creation, as well as an important reformation of the church. The direct translation is: "On the tenth day of the "calendas" of the month of March and in honour of Santa María, the dedication of this church was made by Juan, Bishop of León; being present the abbot of Sahagún, Don Gutierrez and the prior of this place Don Pedro and Covaterio, the master of the works. Twice five hundred added to three times seventy give us its true epoch, of which date subtract twice the ten and twice the nine. This way you will find the year in which the Virgin was incarnated". We then know that in 1172 the church was built. The rest of the inscription is divided by a cross and says: "This work was substantially remodelled in the Era of the Lord (Christian Era) of 1439, being a prior Don Pedro. Juan Fernández de Aniezo made me. Toribio de Cambarco made me".

The door on the south side is called "of the Horn" and it is named so, because this is the door on the Epistle side, which purpose was the access to the old monkish cloister, whose door was exactly in front and where the bases of the entrance arch are still preserved. The door of the Horn conserves the Romanesque style, with a barrel arch. The main thing is the synthesis of the Benedictine rule "Ora et labora", which appears in its beautiful carvings, with monk motives; musicians with a "rabel" (traditional instrument); artists representing a play; tailors, writers and, blacksmiths. On the left plate rail, there´s a beautiful scene of a wild-boar hunt.

The church´s SE apse is semicircular with two buttresses, standing out a double window in the centre. On the "canecillos", some figures appear, like the owl, dog, two tailed siren, etc. The central apse is the highest and the main modification was made in 1439, due to the big floods the church suffered. It consists on three parts, whose centre has a great window framed by two columns with a capital and plate rail, also an archivolt carved with diverse motives. To their left there´s a small Gothic window. The roof eaves is found on "canecillos", two double capitals on double columns stand out, which come from the church´s interior; the one on the right represents the Announcement and the left, the sacrifice of Isaac his father, Abraham. The "canecillos" and metopes are beautifully decorated, the same as the "canecillos" on the north wall.

The Gothic style is appreciated inside the church. It has three naves; the central one is bigger in width and height, with a half annular vault, and the lateral ones, with cross-vaultings. The central presbytery is covered by a nine "plementos" with a central keystone. In the XV century, because of a landslide, the structure of the church was changed, taking into account the three primitive naves. The two apses and three bodies of the transept kept a crossed vault, and once the vaults were damaged, they suppressed the naves and vaults, leaving an only nave, which remained from the XV century until 1952, year in which the church was again distributed into three naves and vaults, as in the primitive way.

Inside the church, the most interesting thing is an arcade in the central apse, with historiated capitals; one of the most beautiful is the one representing the Adoration to the Three Kings, in the centre of the left arcade over two shafts. There´s a magnificent polychromic carving in the presbytery, representing La Piedad, with San Juan and the three Marías, dating from the XV century; another beautiful Piedad, also polychromic, from the XVI century; the frontal piece of a wooden altar, and standing out the shield from Castilla y León, from the XVIII century, as well as another frontal of embossed leather from the same century. In the museum Regina Coelli of Santillana there´s a magnificent Gothic Cross, made with the technique of Limoges. It´s from the XIII century and every year it is taken to Piasca for the Easter services.



In the village of Luriezo, inside the parochial church´s porch, there´s a great stela which is Cantabrian-Roman in origin, presenting an inscription with the remains of both cultures. At the beginning of the century it was shown publicly by the historian Eduardo Jusué. It got very deteriorated outside the church so it was introduced inside the porch in 1955.

This stela is circular, lacking a segment on the base. It is a meter and a half diameter, approximately, carved in siliceous sandstone from the nearby quarries. The inscription can be read quite easily and says the following: "Monument to Ambato Pentovieco, from the Ambáticos tribe, son of Pentovio, 60 years old. This monument was erected by his children Ambatus and Doiderus."

In the inscription the name is mixed, which is something very characteristic of the Roman stelas, along with the tribe to which they belonged, always present in most of the Cantabrian-Roman stelas. Probably Ambáticus is a tribal name for Cambático, original from the tribe once living on the southern slope of Peña Sagra; the old Cambarica or Camarica, mentioned by the geographer Ptolomeo in the old days. This name, with clear Celtic origins, was kept after several changes in their lexicon until the present time, known today as Cambarco, village in the municipality near Luriezo.

Besides this stela, a great fragment of another one is also preserved, encrusted in a wall, surrounding the parochial cemetery. It is cracked and interpretation is difficult; only a few letters can be read, framed over moulds which were carved on the stone; on the top, and left to right, there are some signs of difficult interpretation followed by "CCA" and on the bottom, "B.P.SUS". Above this stela fragment there´s another stone magnificently carved with vegetable decorations, which could very well be the remains of a Romanesque capital. In Luriezo the Monastery of San Pelayo y San Miguel was quoted in 1301.



The primitive hermitage of Cambarco is situated near the village of the same name, in the municipality of Cabezón de Liébana. It was introduced in 1983 by Pedro Alvarez and Andrés Alonso, Liébana´s researchers. Enrique Campuzano and Ramón Bohigas, among other experts, have corroborated the opinion given by these two "lebaniegos", and confirmed that it is a primitive hermitage which could have been built between the end of the VIII and the beginning of the IX centuries.

A cavity was dug in the rock and reinforced by block walls which sustain some "toba" stone reduced bridge-like arches, slightly pointed. The walls delimit a breast of triple semicircular exedra, Byzantine in tradition, with parallels in some Mediterranean and Oriental Europe places. Three arches act as "torales" of the exedras also reinforcing the gallery roof.

The hermitage was restored in 1997, and the works were promoted by the Association for the Jubilee Year in Liébana. It was blessed by the bishop of Santander in May, 1998, together with a wooden polychromic carving of the Cave Virgin, made by a priest from Liébana, Benito Velarde, which is carried in walking procession from the hermitage up to the parochial church of Cambarco. A gate allows people to look at the virgin inside, at the same time its structure is preserved.