The Cathedral of Leon

posted in: Europe, Home, Leon, Spain | 3

We settled into a very comfortable AirBnB just ten minutes from the centre of ‘old’ Léon – comfortable beds, hot water, good cooking facilities, chairs, and fast wifi – and set off to begin our week in the city with a visit to the Cathedral of Leon. The days in the mountains were restful but I was looking forward to the sights in this city.

The Romans created Léon as a military camp in 29BC and then became Legio VII in 71AD, growing into a city. By 910, after a turbulent history, it was the capital of the Kingdom of Léon.

Outside of the Cathedral

The Cathedral in Léon, also known as the House of Light, dates from 1205-1301 and it is an extraordinary building, the third cathedral on this site. As with all the cathedrals in Spain there is an entry fee, and another fee to see the cloister and associated museum. We visited only once, and then attended a concert in the evening for a completely different experience – and a very long concert! After that first day I walked past the building daily, coming into the old city through what used to the East Gate in Roman times, past the south facade of the cathedral.

The south facade of the Cathedral, with a man at what used to be the Roman East Gate of the city
The south facade of the Cathedral in Leon, with a man passing through what used to be the Roman East Gate of the city
The South Facade of the Cathedral of Leon
South Facade of the Cathedral
The South Facade of the Cathedral of Leon
Rose Windows in the South Facade of the Cathedral
The South Facade of the Cathedral of Leon
South Facade of the Cathedral of Leon in the evening

The main square was always busy – tourists, local people, and lots of pilgrims. On this side the main rose window is being restored and the building is covered.

The main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
The main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
The main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
Main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
The main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
Covering over the main facade of the Cathedral of Leon
Cathedral Square, Leon

Main doorway of the Cathedral of Leon

The main door of the Cathedral in Leon
The main door of the Cathedral
The tympanum over the main door of the Cathedral
Tympanum over the main door of the Cathedral
On the railings next to the front facade of the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral of Leon

As I walked inside the Cathedral I was absolutely stunned by what I saw – who would not be. The building soars above your head, there is glass everywhere, and the altarpieces and choir surround are incredibly beautiful. It is in many ways a very simple building – glass and stone.

The rear of the Choir Screen, looking through to the main altar
The rear of the Choir Screen, looking through to the main altar
Rear of the Choir Screen, looking through to the main altar
Alabaster carvings on the back of the choir screen

The main altar houses a silver casket with the relics of St Froilan, the Patron saint of the city, and the retable.

The main altar and the retable in Leon Cathedral
The main altar and the retable in Leon Cathedral
One of the pulpits alongside the enclosed choir in Leon Cathedral
Carving at the entrance to the Choir of Leon Cathedral

Stained glass in the Cathedral of Leon

The stained glass windows are actually quite difficult to appreciate during the daytime. But we returned in the evening to hear an organ recital and at night, with the interior lights dimmed, and windows illuminated by the spotlights outside, it looked as though the glass was holding up a tracery of masonry – it was quite magical.

The entry to the Choir from the nave, closed off to the public
The entry to the Choir from the nave, closed off to the public
A detail from the stained glass windows
One of the stained glass windows
The stained glass windows from the transcept
The stained glass windows from the transept

I hope the photographs give some feeling for this quite wonderful building – the Cathedral of Leon. Next time we will visit the cloister.

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