Founded as the military encampment of the Legio VI Victrix around 29 BC, its standing as an encampment city was consolidated with the definitive settlement of the Legio VII Gemina from 74 AD. Following its partial depopulation due to the Umayyad conquest of the peninsula, León was revived by its incorporation into the Kingdom of Asturias. 910 saw the beginning of one its most prominent historical periods, when it became the capital of the Kingdom of León, which took active part in the Reconquista against the Moors, and came to be one of the fundamental kingdoms of medieval Spain. In 1188, the city hosted the first Parliament in European history under the reign of Alfonso IX, due to which it was named in 2010, by the professor John Keane, the King of Spain and the Junta of Castile and León, as the cradle of Parliamentarism, and the Decreta of León were included in the Memory of the World register by UNESCO in 2013. The city's prominence began to decline in the early Middle Ages, partly due to the loss of independence after the union of the Leonese kingdom with the Crown of Castile, consolidated in 1301.
WHAT TO SEE:
- The Cathedral. It was built in the 13th century in true Gothic style on the foundations the Roman baths and the Royal Palace of Ordoño II. Highlights include the 125 windows with more than 1,900 metres of stained glass panes. The 15th century walnut choir stalls have a total of 76 seats. At the entrance to the museum, visitors will be able to admire the 16th century cloister.
- Royal Basilica of San Isidoro. It was declared a royal basilica by Ferdinand I and is dedicated to Saint Isidore of Seville. The Royal Pantheon contains the remains of at least 23 monarchs of León and the decorated vaults dating backto around 1160 have earned it the name of the ‘Sistine Chapel of Romanesque Art’. The Library and Museum are of particular interest.
- Casa Botines. Designed and built in 1891 by Catalonian architect Antonio Gaudí.
- San Marcos. The Parador Nacional was a pilgrims’ hospital in the 12th century before it was given to the Knights of the Order of Saint James. In the 16th century it was destroyed and rebuilt. Particularly worthy of note is the monumental Plateresque façade. The church is built in the Gothic style.
- Church of Santa Ana. This is the fi rst church we encounter on entering the city of León, just before Calle Barahona.
- Church of El Mercado. Built in the 12th century in Plaza de Santa María del Camino, also known as Plaza del Grano or ‘Corn Square’.
- The Walls. The section of the medieval walls between the Cathedral and San Isidoro are in an excellent state of conservation.