The imposing Cathedral in Oviedo has long been an important pilgrimage destination, and a World Heritage Site since 1998. Inside, the Gothic choir stalls—considered among the finest in the country—were thought to have been lost to a firebomb during the Asturian miners’ strike of 1934. Although many of the choir stalls were indeed lost during the bombing, some were dismantled and stored in different areas of the temple during the following decades.
In 1976, Dorothy and Henry Kraus, two American historians doing research on Gothic architecture in Spain at the time, found them hidden in the attic of the cathedral. The impressive black walnut choir stalls, carved by an unknown artist between 1491 and 1498, were in very poor condition, yet still revealed the incredible level of detail of the carvings, which depicted many secular characters, presenting a complete panorama of life in medieval time.
Between 1979 and 1982, World Monuments Fund supported the meticulous restoration of the choir stalls by two artisans under the direction of the Kraus. Once the restoration was completed, the choir stalls were successfully re-installed in the fourteenth-century capitulary hall (Sala Capitular), where they continue to be appreciated by the public today.