James and Emma Pre Pregnancy Adventure travel blog

Gaudi's restrained phase

Leon's Cathedral

Stained glass window in said cathedral

The drive through the mountains to Leon was very picturesque. We passed many small towns with castles standing alone on hill tops, and an abundance of hermitages, churches convents.

No wonder the people of Madrid keep country houses in the mountains, in some cases it is only 50-100km away from the city and there are mountain walks at lower levels, then rock climbing and ski fields and chalets in the heights. The same can be said for the people of Leon on the northern side of the mountains. It seems to be a prosperous city, as we joined the well dressed locals for the evening, but only looking at the expensive shops. Once again, the smaller towns were more pleasant to visit. The Cathedral building wasn't special after those in the cities and at Salamanca and Toledo, but the stained glass windows were probably the best we'd seen. It's a pity the cleaning process is so painstaking (there were pictures) as they would be just magnificent if recently cleaned.

We visited a Panteon, a crypt or shrine adjoining the Basilica of San Isidoro, built in 1054 to house the rulers of Spain. Eventually 11 kings and 14 Queens and other nobles and princes were laid to rest, unfortunately the Basilica was bombed heavily in the Civil War with the result being that much of the original detail has been lost. The Romanesque art was the real drawing point, it is the earliest example in Spain shows some scenes from the book of Revelations with Apostles and animal heads. The frescoes were also the first time that scenes from the gospel were combined with vegetable decoration (Visigoth tradition).

Being a great power and a capital for a time, Leon contained many old and stately buildings, though one that stood out was a newer work, the Casa de Botines, a work (described as uncharacteristically restrained) by Gaudi.

The Camino de Santiago is the Pilgrim journey to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela to the northwest of the country in Galicia. The journey was the most important in the Christian world around the time of the first crusades. The international route is through the Pyrenees and the north of Spain including Leon and is traditionally marked with the shell (for St James the fisherman) , though the Spaniards appear to have shells everywhere, and every church has a relic to make it important enough to be a part of the action, Thus hikers and cyclists marked with shells and crosses are a common site throughout the country.

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