León, Spain-Aspaym Castilla y León Foundation

The cathedral of León

The Cathedral of Santa María de Regla de León is a temple of Catholic worship, episcopal seat of the diocese of León, Spain, consecrated under the title of Virgin Mary. It was the first monument declared in Spain by the Royal Order on August 28, 1844. Started in the 13th century, it is one of the greatest works of the Gothic style, with a French influence. Known by the nickname of Pulchra leonina, which means ‘Beautiful Leonese’, it is located on the Camino de Santiago. The cathedral of León is known above all for taking to the extreme the “dematerialization” of Gothic art, that is, the reduction of the walls to their minimum expression to be replaced by stained glass, constituting one of the largest collections of medieval stained glass windows in the world. Originally, in the current location of the cathedral, the Legio VII Gemina had built thermal baths, with a size greater than the current building. During the Christian reconquest, the ancient Roman baths were converted into a royal palace. In 916, King Ordoño II, who a few months earlier had occupied the throne of León, defeated the Arabs in the battle of San Esteban de Gormaz. As a sign of thanks to God for the victory, he gave up his palace to build the first cathedral. During the great restoration of the building that took place in the 19th century, its remains were discovered under the cathedral, and in 1996 others were explored next to the south facade. A little amount of these primitive buildings still remain, just a few vestiges of mosaics, tegulas and ceramics, are today exhibited in the cathedral museum. Others, like the hypocaust, still remain under the cathedral lot. The cathedral of León is also known for its set of stained glass windows. Most of the originals are preserved, which is a strange fact in cathedrals of this time (built between the 13th and 16th centuries). It is believed that the stained glass technique has its origin in the Muslim culture. It was taken from it by Christian artists and used during the eleventh century to reach its peak two centuries later. In the sixteenth century, it went into total decline, and later, with the loss of interest in the medieval, stained glass windows were removed from many temples. This, together with the fragility of glass, is the reason why so few collections are now preserved. Above the door of San Juan, on the inside, hangs a skin, like a keel, which the Leon tradition has always identified as an “evil mole”. According to legend, the mole destroyed what was built throughout the day during the night. The reality behind the legend is that the works of the cathedral of León experienced numerous foundation problems, on a very unstable terrain that, by then, had hosted many and diverse constructions. For its part, what we can see today in the half-light over the aforementioned door of the cathedral temple proved during the 90s to be actually a leatherback turtle shell, whose origin is still uncertain.


Los Guzmanes

Los Guzmanes palace is a 16th century Renaissance palace located in the Plaza de San Marcelo next to the Casa Botines in the city of León, Spain. Its design is due to the master Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, although Juan de Ribero Rada was in charge of its execution. Despite being unfinished, it became the most outstanding palace in the city. Already in the twentieth century, the León Provincial Deputation took over the completion of it to house its new offices, a function that it is still performed to this day. It was ordered to be built by D. Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, former “comunero” leader, on the plots that occupied the stately houses of his lineage. The Guzmán family was one of the oldest lineages in León and one of the most influential and prominent noble houses. D. Ramiro wanted to take advantage of the situation of his old houses in one of the main areas of the city to build a new palace that stood out and differentiated itself from the urban environment due to its dimensions and by adopting the typology and aesthetics of Renaissance or Roman-like architecture. For this purpose, he commissioned the design to one of the most prestigious teachers in Castilla at that time, Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. He designed a rectangular palace with a central patio, which needed to be nestled between regular-lined streets and whose main façade had to open onto the existing plaza in order to be viewed from it. The main façade facing the current Plaza de San Marcelo was built in 1566. In the years 1586 and 1587, private houses were acquired and demolished to continue the work and to expand the space of the public square. It was intended that the palace could be seen entirely from the distance as a manifestation of the dominant position that the Guzmán lineage held in the city. To this end, an agreement was reached with the City Council so that the lands around would be free of buildings from now on and incorporated into the existing plaza. At the end of the 16th century the works were interrupted and the palace ended incomplete. Two out of four wings had been raised, those that face the plaza and current Ancha St., and the central courtyard. Despite this, it was the main residence of the city and, as such, it hosted Philip III and Margaret of Austria in 1602. But in this century the palace will cease to be inhabited on a regular basis by ceasing to be the main residence of the family and its deterioration will begin. Already in the years 1654 and 1656 repair and renovation works became necessary on the roofs, cornices and in the courtyard, among others. Without continued use, we had to wait until the 19th century for the process of decline into which it had entered. In the 1940s, the Provincial Government rented part of the building to install its offices, carrying out partial repairs. Later, in 1881, the León Provincial Council bought the building from the owners of that time, the counts of Peñaranda de Bracamonte. What stands out most in the Palacio de los Guzmanes is its main facade, where you can see a decorated door from the 16th century, flanked by Ionic columns and crowned with the statues of two soldiers with the family crest. On the second floor, the stained windows stand out, with the presidential balcony just above the main entrance deserving special attention. On the third floor you can see a gallery of glass arches separated from each other by Corinthian pilasters. Another important part of the Palace is its interior patio, a small space surrounded by a gallery with arcades on whose second floor there are beautiful and large stained glass windows. In the centre of the cloister you can see a very interesting decorative well.

The basilica of San Isidoro

The Royal Collegiate Basilica of San Isidoro or, simply, San Isidoro de León, is a Christian temple located in the city of León, Spain. It is one of the most outstanding Romanesque-style architectural ensembles in Spain, for its history, architecture, sculpture, and for the sumptuary Romanesque objects that have been preserved. It has the particularity of having a Royal Pantheon located at the foot of the church, with Romanesque mural painting and original capitals, all of which make it a unique piece of the Romanesque world of the time. The complex was built and enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries. Originally, it was a monastery dedicated to San Pelayo, although it is supposed that there was a Roman temple previously settled on its foundations. With the transfer of the remains of San Isidoro, Bishop of Sevilla, Doctor of Spain to León, the ownership of the temple was changed. The church and monastery of what is now known as the Basilica of San Isidoro had its origins around 956, a site near the Roman wall of Legio VII Gemina, on the north-west side. The entire western part of the building is attached and superimposed on it. Many meters of this fortress are preserved in good condition by this angle of the north-west. Important Roman remains have also been detected under the buildings of the Collegiate Church, and after the restoration works: thick brick walls, sewers, ceramics, tegulas, latrine drains (conduit through which the water from the house goes to the sink), with the seal of Legio VII. The church was built by the will of King Sancho I of León. There is no remnant of the Visigoth period and neither of the Arab period, nor of the early days of the Reconquest. The first references in chronicles and documents appear in the middle of the 10th century, giving news of the churches of San Juan and San Pelayo, which at this time began to develop. King Sancho I of León (Sancho el Craso) wanted this church to be built. Throughout the centuries and until reaching the 21st century, it was transforming physically and spiritually, suffering times of great splendor and times of true decline. Here are the different phases it went through; These are phases with a great historical load in which the influence of the successive kings and their family environment was largely noted. The church building preserves some Romanesque vestiges of the first construction of Fernando I and Sancha. The Pantheon and the two doors on its southern façade, called Puerta del Cordero and Puerta del Perdón, plus the North or Capitular Door, are the first manifestations of Romanesque art in the Leon territories. Over time, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque modifications and additions were made. On the south side of the facade there is the Door of Forgiveness. It is called that because it was the door through which the pilgrims who were making the Camino de Santiago entered, to obtain in this church the corresponding indulgences and the forgiveness of sins. It belongs to the time of the full Romanesque period, and its reliefs are attributed to the master Esteban, who worked in the cathedrals of Pamplona and Santiago de Compostela. Its execution is after the Puerta del Cordero. The teacher Esteban sculpted for the first time a series of evangelical themes that would later be reproduced on the cover of the Cathedral of Compostela, in the Cathedral of Santa María in Pamplona and on that of Toulouse.36 A checkered cornice divides this facade into two sections. In the upper body there are three large semicircular arches, the two lateral ones being blind. The columns in the centre are twinned and their bases are attic, claw-like. The central window is closed by a Romanesque grille. The lower body is occupied by the cover itself.

The San Marcos Monastery

The San Marcos Monastery is one of the great jewels of the architecture of the Spanish city of León along with the cathedral, the Basilica of San Isidoro and the Casa Botines. It is today converted into a tourist hostel in Spain, as well as a consecrated church and, formerly, the León Museum, being one of the most important monuments of the Spanish Renaissance. The origins of this building are found in the 12th century, when in the time of Alfonso VII de León, his sister, the Infanta Sancha Raimúndez, in July 1152 made a donation for the construction of a modest building on the outskirts of the city walled and on the banks of the Bernesga river, in which “the poor of Christ” could stay, thus becoming a temple-hospital for refuge and pilgrims who were on the Camino de Santiago. Likewise, the building was the main residence in the kingdom of León of the Order of Santiago. In 1176 the first prior was elected, and then in 1184, Pedro Fernández de Castro, the first master of the Order of Santiago was buried in this church,. In the 16th century, the medieval building was in poor condition, so it was demolished and a new work was carried out thanks to a donation from Fernando el Católico in 1514. The architects designated for this work were: Juan de Orozco (church) , Martín de Villarreal (facade) and Juan de Badajoz el Mozo (cloister and sacristy). However, until well into the reign of Carlos I, the new work did not start. It is known that in 1537 the canvas of the main facade of the convent was built from the entrance to the church, which was consecrated in 1541. In the following years, Orozco built the sculptures on the facade, the choir was performed, and in 1549, Juan de Badajoz finished the sacristy, inside which is currently located the tomb, with a praying statue, of Bishop Juan Quiñones de Guzmán, a sculptural work attributed to Esteban Jordán. The works were suspended in 1566 by the transfer of the community to Calera and then to Mérida, but the return of the friars to San Marcos in 1602 gave impetus to the continuation of the work. In 1615 the staircase was built and in 1679 the part of the cloister that was still missing was completed. Finally, between 1711 and 1715 a great extension of the building was carried out, raising another canvas that goes from the main entrance to the river, ending in the palatial tower. This new canvas perfectly imitates the one built in the 16th century, hardly noticing an artistic difference between the two halves of the facade. As already mentioned, it is one of the most important monuments of the Spanish Renaissance. Its facade is a pearl of Plateresque. It is composed of a single canvas with a wall with two bodies and two floors, topped with openwork crest and candlesticks. The first body has semi-circular windows and Plateresque pilasters, the second one has balconies and columns with balustrades. In the plinth medallions are presented with Greco-Latin and Spanish History characters (Hercules, Príamo, Héctor, Alejandro Magno, Aníbal, Julio César, Trajano, Judith, Lucrecia, Isabel la Católica, Carlomagno, Bernardo del Carpio, El Cid , Fernando el Católico, Carlos I and Felipe II). The heads of angels are depicted on the top. The palatial tower was built from 1711 to 1714. It is decorated with the cross of Santiago and a Lion and has four friezes with entablature. The cover and main entrance have two bodies plus a plateresque style comb, although in the 18th century Baroque elements were added. In the first body there is a large semicircular arch with rosette and decorated soffit. The key is of exalted type representing San Marcos. There are medallions with biblical inscriptions and a high relief of Santiago triumphant in the battle of Clavijo. It has a baroque-style opening, with the coat of arms of Santiago and those of the Kingdom of León. The royal coat of arms and a statue of Fame by Valladolid are represented on the comb. Above is a rosette-shaped oculus crowning the cover.

Count Luna

The Count Luna Palace is a monument located in the Spanish city of León. The Count Luna palace was built in the 14th century by order of Don Pedro Suárez de Quiñones and his wife Doña Juana González de Bazán in the southwest corner of the old Roman wall. Of this old palace, only the central structure of the façade and a three-story Renaissance keep built in the XIV century are preserved. It is built of ashlar stone and is about eleven meters wide. The cover is Gothic with a lintel over modillions, a large pointed arch shelters the tympanum, and is framed in wide moulding. For many years it has served as the seat of the Court of the Holy Inquisition and the Bank of Spain, a fruit store, a bar and even a funeral parlor. In 1931 it was declared a National Historic Monument. For the last restoration, the municipal architects have opted to distinguish the current intervention, instead of reconstructing the image and similarity of how it was in its time. For this reason, the current appearance (still unfinished) combines parts of recent construction with others of the original building. The building is owned by the Álvarez Carvallo Foundation, although it was ceded in 2002 to the City Council for the next 75 years in exchange for a symbolic rent of € 1. The restoration works of the Count Luna Palace have already been completed. Although they had planned to install the long-awaited Museum of the Holy Week in Leon (there is no end to find its location), it will not be so, and his noble rooms have been used as a temporary exhibition room. The tower will be the headquarters of the University of Washington and the office of the Fundación León Real. The Count Luna palace is most certainly “an emblematic noble monument”. Among the oldest remains, the stone portal from the 14th century stands out; It shows on the tympanum, under a pointed arch, the arms of Pedro Suárez de Quiñones and of the Bazán, these by Doña Juana Bazán, wife of Don Pedro; on top a balcony within a pointed arch with three semicircular arched windows on columns, the outer ends smooth and the ones inside with schematic Corinthian capitals, all pre-Romanesque and taken advantage of early medieval constructions. The two heights correspond to two deep rooms that were decorated with plasterwork and Mudejar coffered ceilings of which remains are preserved in the Archaeological Museums of Madrid and León. The tower was built in the second half of the 16th century, and construction works were carried out in the years 1572, 1573, and 1588, and they were assembled by Andrés de Buega, architect at the service of Juan del Ribero Rada, so the trace will correspond to him. . The façade and tower that continued in front of the 14th century was demolished in 1862. The first restored tower remains after 1979 when its roof collapsed; It is built with marble ashlars from Cartagena and reverse padding. It has three bodies, the first with Doric entablature, the second with windows decorated with parapets with the arms of the Quiñones, Ionic pilasters and pediments and the third similar to the previous one, all with a Florentine Renaissance air, thus showing the cosmopolitanism of the Counts of Luna, contrary to the gasticism of the Guzmans expressed in their Leonese palace. The Court of the Inquisition was installed in this palace for many years. It was declared a Historical Monument in 1931. Property of the Octavio Álvarez Carballo Foundation.

The barrio Humedo quarter

It is the historic neighbourhood of the city of León. It is located in the heart of the city. It was founded during 29 a. C. as a Roman military camp of the Legio VI Victrix, on the river terrace between the Bernesga and Torío rivers, near the Asturian city of Lancia, on the occasion of the so-called Cantabrian wars.1 At the end of the 1st century, from the AD 74, the camp is occupied by Legio VII Gemina, which will remain in León until approximately the beginning of the 5th century. The city belonged to the Conventus Asturum, with capital in Asturica Augusta, which was part of the Tarraconense province until the 3rd century, when, with the creation of the Gallaecia province, it was integrated into it. After the Roman period, the city was part of the Swedish kingdom and later the Visigoth kingdom. Between the 6th and 8th centuries the scarcity of archaeological evidence projected an image devoid of urban vitality, with a clear reduction of the inhabited space, but the discovery of ceramics belonging to the Cordoba Umayyad period in the Puerta Obispo area indicates that the city was not completely abandoned, but retained a certain stable population. Leon was conquered by the Muslims in the year 712. However, it was not until around 846 when a group of Mozarabs tried to repopulate the city with a Christian population, since until then it had remained in a “dormant state”, in the centre of the fighting line; however, a Muslim attack ended that initiative. It was in 853 when Ordoño I incorporated the city into the Kingdom of Asturias, repopulating it successfully. It is with Ordoño II, who occupied the throne after the death of his brother García I, when the city became the capital of the Asturian kingdom, initiating the Kingdom of León. During the kingdom’s existence, the city of León grew. The Camino de Santiago played an important role in this matter, perhaps the most important route for the circulation of people, ideas, culture and art from the Middle Ages. In the twelfth century, the Arab geographer and traveller Edrisi wrote the following about Leon: “A very profitable trade is practised there. Its inhabitants are savers and prudent.” We also have news of León through various codices, including the Codex Calixtinus, a manuscript that, among other things, contains information on the route that pilgrims followed towards Santiago de Compostela. With all this, the city learned about the development of new neighbourhoods, sometimes outside the walls of a city that was already too small, and almost always on the road of the pilgrims, who entered the city through the so-called Puerta Moneda. The old centre of León is a monumental neighbourhood, being the layout of its medieval streets, with narrow streets, irregular blocks, high density, narrow and deep buildings with vertical openings, balconies, viewpoints, wooden eaves, etc. The vast majority of the city’s monuments are located here. It is the best-known and busiest area of León’s old town, located south of Calle Ancha. Its origin is probably found in the ancient Roman cannaba, where the civilians who supplied the camp with products lived. Among its most emblematic streets is La Rúa, once the most commercial street in the city, connecting Calle Ancha with Plaza de San Francisco, outside the walled area. The life of the neighbourhood, however, is concentrated in the streets around the Plaza de San Martín and the Plaza Mayor, where the majority of hotel establishments and nightclubs are located. This is the area is excellent for the activity known as tapas, where each drink is accompanied by a sample of provincial gastronomy completely free of charge, the most typical of which is Leonese sausage. Currently, the Barrio Húmedo is famous for hosting the largest hotel and leisure offer in the capital, with one of the areas with the most restaurants per square meter in Spain. You can find a large number of inns, restaurants, taverns and tapas bars where you can taste the most representative gastronomy of the province.


Plaza de Grano

The plaza del Grano is a square located in the old town of León. Although it is popularly known as Plaza del Grano, its official name is Plaza de Santa María del Camino as it is located behind the church of the same name. It has a characteristic cobblestone of the medieval León. Its current name is due to the markets where grain and other farm products were sold here. However, it also received other uses, as an official place where ordinances were proclaimed, and even as a bullring. Currently, events such as a medieval market have been held there and it is also a meeting point, for the San Froilán festivities, for decorated cars. It has an irregular floor plan and is partially porticoed since, although the entire square was originally porticoed, over the years the old porticoed buildings have been replaced by others without arcades. In the center of the square, there is a fountain that they say represents the confluence of the two rivers that pass through the city: the Bernesga and the Torío. It is located in front of the apse of the Church of Nuestra Señora del Mercado (better known as Iglesia del Mercado). The fountain, which was inaugurated in 1769, is square in shape, on a stone pedestal; a column with an attic base and capital with acanthus leaves and steeple rises in the centre; high up, there are two city shields; Attached to the column, two Baroque children cross their arms behind their backs, and hold a lion mask, which pours fanned water into a cup, which is hidden from two conch shells. The sculptures are the work of Don Félix de Cusac and his assistant Don José Velasco. Next to this sculpture we can find a second one, this time a stone cross with a square base on which the confreres of Santa María “in sabato” sang Salve to him. This cross was also the pillory of the city where according to tradition the Virgin appeared on February 9. Centuries contemplate the Plaza del Grano de León, one of the most authentically Leonese places in its essence, most loved and admired. Because its stamp of boulders, the same that was worn by countless public spaces in the Leonese capital and that were lost, is the only one that survives in the 21st century. The Nazi aviators of the Condor Legion in the middle of the Civil War wanted to spoil it, trampling their pebbles with their trucks and motorcycles amid the exhilaration of the surprised Leoneses of the time. And to such an extent the municipal disdain for its workmanship that in March 1971, with the authoritarian Francoism still fully in force, a whole General Directorate of Fine Arts of the Ministry had to express a resounding ‘no’ to the claim of the mayor of León, Manuel Arroyo Quiñones, to install in this square “a monument to the Fallen” by God and by Spain, understanding in Madrid better than in León that “given its great character and the historical memories it contains, it must be preserved without any addition that could disfigure its current characteristics “.