We were 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.
Léon is a city which was established by the Romans 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.
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 main square was always busy – tourists, local people, and lots of pilgrims. On this side the main rose window was being restored and the building was covered.
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 main altar houses a silver casket with the relics of St Froilan, the Patron saint of the city, and the retable.
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.
I hope the photographs give some feeling for this quite wonderful building. Next time we will visit the cloister.