It’s in León we begin to see a lot of pilgrims on the Camino.
For the most part, they appear intent on their mission. I am not so sure they have the chance (time?) to absorb this lovely Spanish city. On the other hand, it’s possible I’m making excuses for doing this our way? Even without the hike between towns, we’ve clocked in just about 150 miles of walking so far!
We are staying at a spacious, four bedroom, “high-rise” apartment overlooking the historic district.
During the summer all rooms are rented. But for us, we have the run of the place. I have to admit, it’s been nice to have some private time. Time where I don’t have to concentrate on my terrible Spanish. We scored, and it came to $37.00/night.
We only learn later our host, Man Martínez, is a 2004 Summer Olympian, bronze medalist in shotput! Yeah, now we know why those 90 stairs to the top were a breeze for him. He’s also a local celebrity for his acting and movie productions, such as Triptico.
Anyway, about León, it boasts a 13th century, Gothic cathedral with so much stained glass, it rivals Chartes in France. But, does take second place. Like many European towns with narrow streets, crowded by vendors, & street artists, it’s striking how a cathedral just lights up the scene:
There is so much going on in this cathedral – so much history – I can’t even scratch the surface. But, of course, I’ll try.
The structure itself is an architectural masterpiece. And, throughout the centuries has required other architect “miracles” to keep it standing. How does such a tall, stone building manage to not crush the fragile, jeweled glass? Clearly it required some engineering genius.
About 70% of the glass is original, and it’s relatively easy to spot the glass post 16th century, because they used larger glass pieces to create the scene. The north side (less sun) of the cathedral is layered with dark blues and may suggest the figurative “dark side.” The west side is much brighter and cheery. Can you tell which side these images are on?
For whatever reason, I am always captivated (often alarmed) with the narrative sculpted, painted, carved on the walls… stories that communicate to the illiterate masses, why you must follow the hierarchy of the church. Or, maybe, why you better complete this Camino pilgrimage: to save your wretched soul! Here’s a simple narrative on the church portico:
Here’s another one, the scales of justice have deteriorated away from the central scene (lower portion) and Mary is standing by, observing the judgement:
León is also home to a Romanesque monastery, San Isidoro, from the 11th century, I believe. Touring inside they have the music of chanting Gregorian monks piped in, setting the mood. Here we get a rare chance to see well-preserved frescoes, not behind a glass in a museum, but showcased just where the artist intended. Again, no photos allowed, but I bought postcards!
Somehow we missed the library, where huge, handwritten books are kept; but I did get to thumb through a copy of a Mozarabic Bible circa 960AD to get “the feel” of such antiquity.
My post on León would not be complete if I fail to mention architect Antonio Gaudí, and his Casa Botines. (There only two “Gaudi’s” outside Catalonia.) Here, modern Art Nouveau meets medieval countenance. I suppose it’s something to look at, but I’m not an architect major.