From the Rooftop of León

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It’s in León we begin to see a lot of pilgrims on the Camino.Camino de Santiago sign

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.

Rooftops of León

Rooftops of León

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. León AirBnb

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.

The Cathedral

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:

Santa María de León Cathedral


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.

León Cathedral

A kaleidoscope of light

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.

León cathedral glass & ceiling

Classic Goth

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?

Stain glass

Santa María de León Cathedral

Stain glass

Santa María de León Cathedral

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:

Portico of cathedral

Angels, and music and feasts (wait, isn’t that the queens portrait?, oh, and that’s the bishop??)

Portico of church - demons

“Alright! I believe, I believe, I believe….”

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:

Reading from left to right…it ends with cauldrons of “people soup”

The Monastery

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!

El panteón de los reyes

El panteón de los reyes – The pantheon of Kings

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.

Mozarabic Bible

Beautiful reproduction of the painstaking work of dedicated Monks

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.

Casa Botines by Gaudi

Casa Botines

About Hali

Just a travel junkie trying to find my voice in the blogosphere. I enjoy sharing my photography and fast facts I learn in the places I travel through.

3 thoughts on “From the Rooftop of León

  1. Oliver Kuschel

    Hi Mike,
    where are you right now?
    Markus and me are arriving in Bilbao today (Oct 1st). We will take the Camino Del Norte” to Santiago by bike and we will arrive there at Oct 9 th. Will you Guss be around as well? That would be a blast!!!
    Please leave me a message under or give me a call or WhatsApp under my mobile number 00491735764205.
    Keep on rollin’!!!


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