|— Municipality —|
|Elevation||86 m (282 ft)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
León is a department (state) in northwestern Nicaragua (5,138 km2). It is also the second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua. It was founded by the Spaniards as León Santiago de los Caballeros and rivals Granada, Nicaragua, in the number of historic Spanish colonial homes and churches. As of 2005, the city had an estimated population of about 175,000 people which increases sharply during university season with many students coming from other Nicaraguan provinces. It is the capital and municipality of the León department.
León is located along the Río Chiquito (Chiquito River), some 90 km northwest of Managua, and some 18 km east of the Pacific Ocean coast. Although less populous than Managua, León has long been the intellectual center of the nation, with its university founded in 1813. León is also an important industrial, agricultural (sugar cane, cattle, peanut, plantain, sorghum) and commercial center for Nicaragua.
The first city named León in Nicaragua was established in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba about 20 miles east of the present site. The city was abandoned in 1610, for unknown reasons. The principal cause is commonly given as a necessary abandonment after an eruption of the Momotombo volcano, located only a couple miles away, which left extensive damage in the form of flooding from Lake Managua. However, the speed of the construction of the new León suggest that the old city was in great part dismantled, moved, and rebuilt, and therefore must have happened before the destruction of the site by the volcano. Other possible reasons for the move include the need for fresh agricultural land, the need for higher concentrations of natives to use as a labour force, and perhaps also fear of Momotombo erupting - although unrecorded, it could have been releasing gas, ash, or other volcanic material for some time before the eventual eruption. The inhabitants decided to move to its current location next to the Indigenous town of Subtiava. The ruins of the abandoned city are known as "León Viejo" and were excavated in 1960. In the year 2000, León Viejo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
León has fine examples of Spanish Colonial architecture, including the grand Cathedral of the Assumption, built from 1706 to 1740, with two towers added in 1746 and 1779. In the year 2011, the Cathedral of the Assumption was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When Nicaragua withdrew from the United Provinces of Central America in 1839, León became the capital of the new nation of Nicaragua. For some years the capital shifted back and forth between León and Granada, Nicaragua, with Liberal regimes preferring León and Conservative ones Granada, until as a compromise Managua was agreed upon to be the permanent capital in 1858.
In 1950 the city of León had a population of 31,000 people. Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza García was shot and mortally wounded in the city on September 21, 1956.
The heritage of León is rich. Both monuments and natural places in response to the monuments include the following: Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, León, 2007.
- Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León, typical colonial baroque building was built between 1747 and 1814. Because strength of its walls has endured earthquakes, volcanic eruptions of the volcano Cerro Negro and wars. In 1824, were placed several cannons on the roof during the siege of the city by conservative forces; and, in the uprising of June and July 1979 against the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the guerrillas of the Sandinista National Liberation Front also used for war purposes.
- This cathedral is one of the largest in Central America. It was the first episcopal seat of Nicaragua, since 1531, making it one of the oldest dioceses in the Americas. It is the tomb of the poet Rubén Darío, at the foot of the statue of St. Paul, leading figure of modernism and considered the Prince of the Castilian literature. In its crypts, designed to withstand earthquakes, are buried some illustrious people of the nation as Salomón de la Selva and Alfonso Cortés, the hero Miguel Larreynaga and musician José de la Cruz Mena.
- There are a number of tunnels that connect this church with other churches in León. In the early 20th century the first bishop of León and last in Nicaragua, Archbishop Simeón Pereira y Castellón (the same who presided over the funerals of Darío on 13 February 1916) commissioned the Granadan sculptor Jorge Navas Cordonero make the statue of the Virgin Mary above the front of the facade, the Atlanteans that are among the gables and the towers. Navas also sculpted the statues of the Twelve Apostles, along with the columns of the central nave, like the lion of the tomb of the poet, much look like at the Lion of Lucerne, Switzerland, and various decorations inside the church and its Tabernacle Chapel.
- Church of Sutiaba was considered the main church after the cathedral. Its construction began in 1698, at time of magistrate Diego Rodríguez Menéndez and was completed August 24, 1710. In the war with El Salvador, in 1844, disappeared the dome that crowned the tower so was re-built in the early 20th century again.
- Church of San Francisco is part of the convent of San Francisco, one of the oldest in Nicaragua, founded in 1639 by Friar Pedro de Zúñiga. The interior remains two good examples of plateresque altars.
- Church of La Recolección, construction began on December 5, 1786, by Bishop Juan Félix de Villegas. made thanks to the gatherer fathers of congregation San Francisco de Nery. It is a good baroque facade (of Mexican Baroque), considered the most important of the city. Its altar, also Baroque, is one of the best altarpieces of the city. Highlights the paintings and engravings with which it adorns.
- Church La Merced, in 1762 the Mercedarian fathers built their convent and the church that were demolished. In the 18th century was rise the present Church of La Merced with drawings attributed to Mercedario Friar Pedro de Ávila and conducted by master Pascual Somarriba. Adjacent to the north side is the building del Paraninfo (former mercedario convent), main building of the UNAN-León.
- Church El Calvario, interesting town-planning for its spatial distribution, this church dates from the first half of the 18th century but was modified the north tower in the 20th century. It was built by the illustrious Mayorga Family.
- Ruins of the Church of San Sebastián, built in the late 17th century as a chapel of the Cathedral and was one of the first religious buildings of the city. Re-built in late 18th century by Colonel Joaquín Arrechavala. It was bombed during the siege of León by airplanes of Nicaraguan Air Force in 1979, due was made of adobe was easily destroyed unlike other churches, which, being built of brick and stone quarry, endured the fighting.
- Church Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, built in the late 19th century under the auspices of father Villamil replacing an hermitage of 18th century, is of simple construction, in keeping with the sobriety of the Franciscans.
- Church of Zaragoza, with an atrium and lateral corridor, its construction began in the late 19th century and ended in mid-20th century by Bishop Salmerón, the facade was designed by Dr. Francisco Mateo.
- Church San Felipe, a large building that occupies an entire block, was built in 1685 for blacks and mulattos can pray. In 1859 undergoes extensive expansion that gives the present form, the tower was restored in 1983.
- Church Hermitage of San Pedro, a small building with typical popular architecture of the 18th century. It was built between 1706 and 1718 by the mayor Bartolomé González Fitoria, replacing the original church of San Pedro that was part of a set of four primitive hermitages in Subtiava.
- Church San Nicolás de Tolentino del Laborío, Philip III of Spain ordered its construction in 1618. Of Colonial baroque style, is of lines very light.
- Chapel de la Asunción, part of the school of the same name and was built in 1679 by Bishop Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo, used as an episcopal palace. Later it was occupied by the Mothers of the Assumption, and in 1935, were made deep reforms that led to the current appearance.
- Hotel Esfinge building designed by Nicaraguan architect José María Ibarra like upscale hotel.
- Esquivel House, Built in the 19th century belonged to Father Mariano Dubon 20th century around the house detail and decoration of the structure makes it unique in this city the house now belongs to the Esquivel Family and this is categorized and rated as high-class residence.
- Colegio San Ramón, of symmetrical facade and Renaissance influences has been raised several times due was destroyed by earthquakes. Has been occupied by the university and has had seminar roles.
- City Hall, built in 1935, was damaged in 1979 by Somoza's repression of the National Guard against the rise of the FSLN. The building was designed by architect Marcelo Targa, precursor of neoclassical architecture in Leon, following the artistic movement of the late 20th century. It was built during the administration of Juan Bautista Sacasa. It is a building of important architectural value.
- León Viejo, the ruins of the ancient city of León which was buried by eruptions of the volcano Momotombo, most of them in 1610. Was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, it is situated 30 km from the modern city, is a World Heritage Site and in this is buried its founder, in a crypt, beneath his statue along with other characters including Pedrarias Dávila his murderer.
There are more buildings and important places, like the walls of the cemetery of Guadalupe, the Guadalupe Bridge, Sutiava Rural House or the train station.
Geological features around Leon include:
- Poneloya beach, a major tourist destination on the Pacific Ocean.
- San Jacinto Swarms, geothermal place at the base of the Santa Clara volcano and constitute part of its vents. This phenomenon is known as Thermal sharpen to simmer.
- Momotombo volcano, with its 1300 m summit, it is the reference to Leonese visual landscape. At its base lies León Viejo. The name is a Native American word for Great Summit Burning. A geothermal power generation exists onsite.
- Cerro Negro volcano, one of the youngest of the earth (1850), has caused trouble for the population of León through its ashfall in recent eruptions.
Notable people 
- José de la Cruz Mena, greatest Nicaraguan classical composer (1874–1907).
- Azarías Pallais, one of Nicaragua's greatest poets and literary figures (1884–1954).
- Alfonso Cortés, most renowned Nicaraguan poet after Rubén Darío (1893–1969).
- Salomón de la Selva, poet, writer, diplomatic, translated W Whitman to Spanish (1893–1959).
- Antenor Sandino, greatest metaphysical poet (1899–1969).
- Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Nicaraguan president (1st term: 1967–1972, 2nd term: 1974–1979); overthrown by the Sandinistas.
- Enrique Bermúdez, Nicaraguan Contra leader (1932–1991).
Sister cities 
- Hamburg, Germany
- Oxford, United Kingdom
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA
- New Haven, Connecticut, USA
- Utrecht, Netherlands
- Lund, Sweden
- Alicante, Spain
- Janesville, Wisconsin, USA
- León, Mexico
See also 
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