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outside of the cathedral
Closest available address
Plaza de Regla, León, Spain
Hours vary. Cathedral and museum generally 8:30am-1:30pm & 4:00-7:00pm.
Best time to visit
Leon once was known because it was a Roman settlement in 70 AD and then the ancient capital of Castile-Leon. Today it is a provincial capital and well-known university town and it is recognized as one of the main pilgrimage stops along the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela (look for the small brass scallop shells in the street) and the site of an impressive Gothic Cathedral that was built on the grounds of the royal palace of King Ordono II. What makes this mostly 13th century Cathedral so impressive is its stained glass windows and sandstone carvings. There has been an attempt, that still may be underway, to clean the sandstone that once was a golden hue but since has been darkened and possibly weakened by air pollution.
If you are fortunate to visit on a sunny day, you will see the sun shining through the West Rose Window which depicts the Virgin and Child and through many of the long, thin panels of stained glass.
All told, there are three rose windows, one hundred twenty five large windows and fifty-seven small, round windows depicting a diverse range of religious scenes such as pilgrims worshipping at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela or of secular medieval scenes including hunting or simply of floral patterns. This soaring cathedral seems to consist of more windows than sandstone.
In addition, there are some noteworthy thirteenth century sandstone carvings such as the scene from The Last Judgment on the front of the cathedral.
Inside are many interesting chapels, a choir with fifteenth century stalls, a museum, thirteenth to fourteenth century cloister galleries and a number of sculptures including the Virgin Blanca known as the smiling virgin and the Virgen de la Esperanza known as the pregnant Madonna.
If you plan on spending the day in this picturesque city, Leon features the Parador de Leon, once the former seat of the Knights of Santiago and subsequently a monastery, a school, a prison hospital, a stud farm, a military prison and now an outstanding and picturesque historic hotel.
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