Leon´s cathedral - Ultimate visitor´s guide

The Cathedral is Leon´s spiritual heart. This is one of Spain´s gothic top masterpieces and we would recommend you enjoy it both from the outside (either during the day when bathed by the northern sunshine) or during the night when it gets illuminated. But the best of Leon Cathedral awaits the visitor inside. The vidrieras (stained glass) of the cathedral is what leoneses are especially proud of and you will understand why once you enjoy your visit! We find these vidrieras simply amazing and despite Leon is not in the radar for most visitors to Spain, we believe this cathedral deserves to be included in our Spain´s top sights list.

Let´s remember that Leon is an important stop in El Camino and a great feeling for any of the pilgrims who manage to combine a visit to the Cathedral and tapas at El Humedo district near the cathedral and which is also a must for any visitor to Leon.

Table of Contents

History of the Cathedral of Leon

In 1205 the bishop Manrique of Lara commissioned the building of the “Pulchra Leonina” or jewel of Leon. This name reflects well what awaits you when you visit this impressive Cathedral, one of Spain´s top masterpieces and probably the best example of stained-glass windows in Spain.

Works did not begin fast but were well underway by until the beginning of the 14th Century. The Cathedral ground plan is based on the cathedral of Rheims in France and the exterior may remind the cathedral of Amiens.

How big is the Cathedral of Leon

The Cathedral of Leon it is built in purest Gothic style (amongst the purest examples of Gothic amongst the many cathedrals in Spain) in yellow sandstone and appears as a symphony of stone and light. It has a Latin cross groundplan, a nave and two aisles and a tripartite transept. It is 295 ft. long, 131and wide and 128 ft. high over the nave.

Cathedral of Leon from outside

The Western façade, which is grand and impressive is flanked by two huge towers, the Torre de las Campanas (213 ft. high) and the Torre del Reloj (a late Gothic clock tower, 223 ft. high). It has a massive rose window above the portico, which has three portals. The central column of the huge middle portal bears Nuestra Señora la Blanca, a splendid Madonna. The crowned Queen of Heaven is flanked by paints on each side of the doorway. The tympanum depicts Christ Pantocrator with angels and instruments of torture.

The frieze below shows an angel with the scales of justice, with the damned on the left and the elect on the right. This theme is further elaborated in the archivolts. The left
portal shows the Childhood of Jesus, and the right portal, which is named after St.
Francis, has two fine sculptures of prophets. The decorations on all three
doorways date from the second half of the 13 century.

Southern portal: This also has a tripartite portico with a huge rose-window above it. The ornate decoration of figures is reminiscent in places of the cathedral at Burgos.

The Northern portal, the Puerta del Dado, is at the opposite end of the transeptr where it opens into the cloisters. It is the oldest portal in the church and has some splendidly preserved paintwork and sculpture. There is a Virgin Mary on the central pillar under the tympanum.

Stained glass windows

Upon entering the Cathedral of Leon, the visitor is immediately struck by the light from the stained-glass windows. There are some 19,400 sq. ft. of coloured glass (some of which is 39 ft. high) with 57 openings as well as rose-windows such as the three huge ones above the portals. They date from the 13C to the 20C; the oldest are in the North transept, the Capilla Mayor.
The windows of the Santiago Chapel are Renaissance-influenced. The motifs depicted in this world of coloured glass include the trivium and the quadrivium, the Vices and Virtues, saints, earthly rulers, the mitre and staff, the sceptre and crown and plant decoration.

Leon´s cathedral plan

Plan of the Cathedral in Leon Spain

Trascoro of the leon Cathedral

The gilded alabaster trascoro with its rich array of figures is a Renaissance piece dating from 1576, It was designed by Baltasar Gutiérrez and executed by Esteban Jordán. The central arch is framed by four reliefs and offers a viewinto the nave. Above the arch is a crucifix by Bautista Vázquez. The coro is one of Spain’s oldest dating from the second half of the 15 Century and constructed under the supervision of Flamen Jusquin; the choir stalls were completed between 1467-81 by Flemish carvers under the direction of Juan de Malina: his colleagues included Fadrique Alemán, Jorge Fernández and Diego Copin de Holanda, who also worked on parts of the high altar in the cathedral of Toledo. There is a fine Plateresque grille in front of the Capilla Mayor.

Chapels in Leon´s cathedral

The contents of the individual chapels (see ground plan) is also interesting: the most impressive items are the early-14 Century tomb of King Ordoño II (d. 924), which stands against the back wall of the Capilla Mayor, the tomb of Bishop Rodrigo (d. 1532), the Renaissance tomb of St. Pelayo and the tomb of Bishop Manrique de Lara (d. 1232), the church’s founder.

The most impressive of the chapels are the Capilla de Santiago, or de la Virgen del Camino, which has splendid stained-glass windows and carved ornament, and the Capilla de San Andrés with its 13C Gothic portal.

Leon´s cathedral museum

The cathedral museum, which is housed in a section of the cloisters, contains over 1,500 pieces! Paintings, sculptures and manuscripts. There is a 10C Mozarabic antiphonal, a 6C palimpsest, an 11C Lex Romana Visigothorum, a 10C Visigoth Bible, a crucifix by Juan de Juni, a 13C Archangel Gabriel from the S. portal, apolychrome statue of King Ordoño II, Romanesque sculptures, a 16C Madonna and Child, an Adoration of the Magi, some 16C paintings by Pedro de Campaña, Gothic and Mudéjar caskets etc.

Leon´s cathedral Video

Other cathedrals in Spain

Valencia cathedral

After James I of Aragon had taken Valencia in 1238, Gothic churches and monasteries were built in Valencia and all along the coast. Almost all

Palma de Mallorca Cathedral

Mallorca cathedral was built between 1230 and 1600 and thus has parts which are Renaissance despite most of the building is gothic. Locals from Mallorca

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