- This article is about the Leon Cathedral in Spain, for the Cathedral in Nicaragua that goes by the same name, see: León Cathedral (Nicaragua).
||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Spanish Wikipedia. (January 2012)|
Santa María de León Cathedral, also called The House of Light or the Pulchra Leonina is situated in the city of León in north-western Spain. It was built on the site of previous Roman baths of the 2nd century which, 800 years later, king Ordoño II converted into a palace.
The León Cathedral, dedicated to Santa María de la Regla, was declared of Cultural Interest in 1844. It is known as the Pulchra Leonina and is a masterpiece of the Gothic style dominating the mid-13th century, by master architect Enrique. By the late 16th century it was virtually completed.
The main façade has two towers. The southern tower is known as the 'clock tower'. The interior represents a combination of architecture, painting, sculpture and other arts. The Renaissance retrochoir contains alabaster sculptures and the choir was built by three great artists: Jusquin, Copin of Holland and Juan de Malinas. Particularly noteworthy is the Plateresque screen in the wall behind the sepulchre of King Ordoño.
It has three portals decorated with sculptures situated in the pointed arches between the two towers. The central section has a large rose window. Particularly outstanding is the image of the Virgin Blanca and the Locus Appellatione, where justice was imparted.
Its almost 1,800 square meters of stained glass windows are one the main touristic attractions of the cathedral. The great majority of them are original, which is a rarity, and date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. They are among the world's finest stained glass works.
In the Main Chapel, there is an altarpiece by Nicolás Francés (15th century) and a silver urn containing the relics of San Froilán, the town's Saint patron, made by Enrique de Arfe. The 13th- to 15th-century cloister contains singular sculpted details in the capitals, friezes and ledges.
The Cathedral Museum houses a large collection of sacred art. There are almost 1,500 pieces, including 50 Romanesque sculptures of the Virgin, dating from pre-historic times to the 18th century (Neoclassicism) with works by Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández, Mateo Cerezo, a triptych of the School of Antwerp, a Mozarabic bible and numerous codices.
The Cathedral is also one of the three most important Cathedrals on The Way of Saint James (or in Spanish, El Camino de santiago). Along with The Burgos Cathedral and the Cathedral in Santiago De Compostela, it is visited a lot and it is a holy worshipping place, and very sacred to the people of its city. It is one of the things that makes Leon so famous, and one of the main stops on the camino. There is a little cafe just outside the cathedral that is very busy most of the time because there are many tourists stopping by the cathedral.
- The Roman baths and the first cathedral
Originally, under the current location of the cathedral, the Legio VII Gemina had built the baths, with a size larger than the current building. During the great restorations of the nineteenth century its remains were discovered, and in 1997 others were explored near the south façade.
During the Christian reconquest the ancient Roman baths were converted into a royal palace. King Ordoño II, who had occupied the throne of Leon in 916, defeated the Arabs in the Battle of San Esteban de Gormaz in 917. As a sign of gratitude to God for victory, he gave up his palace to build the first cathedral. Under the episcopate of Fruminio II, the building was transformed into a sacred place. The tomb of Ordoño II of Leon, who died in 924, is found in the cathedral.
The temple was guarded and governed by monks of the Order of St. Benedict, and it is likely that its structure was very similar to many others existing during the Leonese Mozarabs. The remains tell the tales of the passage of Almanzor through these lands in the late tenth century, devastating the city and destroying the temples. However, it appears that damage to the building of the cathedral must have been immediately repaired, since in the year 999 King Alfonso V was crowned in it, in an event full of glory.
After a succession of political turmoil and harsh military undertakings up to 1067 the state of the cathedral was in extreme poverty. This would move to King Ferdinand I of León, who, after transferring the remains of San Isidoro to León, sought to restore the temple. A peaceful time began with this king who achieved great successes in the expansion of the Christian kingdom. It was the time of flourishing of Romanesque Isidorian.
- The Roman cathedral
With the help of Princess Teresa Urraca of Navarre, sister of the king, the construction of a second cathedral, was started in line with the aspirations of Roman Christianity, and within its architecture. It fell within the Pelayo II episcopal see. Its style was essentially Roman, built in brick and masonry, with three naves finished in semicircular apses, the central one dedicated to Saint Mary, as in the previous church. Although the cathedral was built according to international trends, a close examination of what has survived of its original facade, its originally indigenous nature can be noted. There is still the use of the horseshoe arch, at least decoratively. The cathedral was consecrated on November 10, 1073 during the reign of Alfonso VI. Presumably the same masons who were building the Basilica of San Isidoro of Leon worked on it.
This cathedral remained standing until the end of the next century. When the last proprietary king of Leon, Alfonso IX, acceded to the throne, the city and the kingdom witnessed major social change, artistic creativity and cultural development.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Catedral de Leon.|
- InFocus: León Cathedral (León, Spain) at HitchHikers Handbook
- Official Site of León Cathedral
- Webcam of León Cathedral
- "Historia de San Esteban de Gormaz". Retrieved 5 June 2012.