León, Spain

León, Spain

The city of León (Llión, in the Leonese language [www.aytoleon.es] ) is the capital of León province in the autonomous community of Castile and León, in northwest Spain. Its population of 136,985 (2006) [ [http://www.iwiyedjghciodhns;pinkcne.es/inebase/cgi/axi#prueba Ine, 1 de Enero de 2006] ] makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for over one quarter [http://alarcos.inf-cr.uclm.es/per/fruiz/pobesp/dat/arc/areas-pob.zip Datos de áreas urbanas en 2006] . Hay otras estadísticas que aportan cifras distintas. Véase Área metropolitana de León] of the province's population. Its urban area population is calculated at 204,212 (2006).León is famous for its Gothic León Cathedral and many other monumental buildings, such as the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro (which holds the Royal Pantheon, a mausoleum in which medieval Kingdom of León's royal family were buried, and also has one of the world's best collections of Romanesque paintings); Casa de Botines (an early work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, nowadays occupied by a bank); San Marcos (originally the Military Order of Santiago's home, built in the 16th century); or the new MUSAC, the Castile and León Museum of Contemporary Art.León is also known for its "fiestas", like Easter. Leonese processions are declared to be of International Interest and, on those days, many people from all over the world visit León to see and participate in its traditions.


León was founded in the 1st century BC by the Roman legion Legio VI "Victrix". In 68 CE Legio VII "Gemina" created a permanent military camp, which was the origin of a later city. Its modern name is derived from the city's Latin name Legio VII Gemina [Itin. Ant. p. 395; polytonic|Λεγίων ζ Γερμανική, Ptol. ii. 6. § 30] , from the Roman legion recruited by Galba from Iberians, which established the site of the city to protect the territory from the wild mountaineers of Asturias and Cantabria, and to secure the transport of gold extracted in the province, especially in Las Médulas. [Dion Cass. iv. 24; Tac. "Hist." ii. 11, iii. 25; Suet. "Galba", 10.] Tacitus calls the legion "Galbiana", to distinguish it from the old Legio VII "Claudia", but this appellation is not found on any inscriptions. It appears to have received the appellation of "Gemina" [Respecting the use of which, and "Gemella", see Caesar "B.C." iii. 3] on account of its amalgamation by Vespasian with one of the German legions, not improbably the Legio I "Germanica". Its full name was Legio VII Gemina Felix. After serving in Pannonia, and in the civil wars, it was settled by Vespasian in Hispania Tarraconensis, to supply the place of the Legio VI "Victrix" and Legio X "Gemina", two of the three legions ordinarily stationed in the province, but which had been withdrawn to Germany. [Tac. "Hist." ii. 11, 67, 86, iii. 7, 10, 21--25, iv. 39; Inscr. "ap." Gruter, p. 245, no. 2.]

That its regular winter quarters, under later emperors, were at León, we learn from the Itinerary, Ptolemy, and the Notitiae Imperii, as well as from a few inscriptions [Muratori, p. 2037, no. 8, A.D. 130; p. 335, nos. 2, 3, A.D. 163; p. 336, no. 3, A.D. 167; Gruter, p. 260, no. 1, A.D. 216] ; but there are numerous inscriptions to prove that a strong detachment of it was stationed at Tarraco (modern Tarragona), the chief city of the province.

Kingdom of León

The post-Roman history of the city is largely the history of the Kingdom of Leon. The station of the legion in Asturias grew into an important city, which resisted the attacks of the Visigoths till A.D. 586, when it was taken by Leovigild; and it was one of the few cities which the Visigoths allowed to retain their fortifications. During the struggle with the Muslim invaders, the same fortress, which the Romans had built to protect the plain from the incursions of the mountaineers, became the advanced post which covered the mountain, as the last refuge of Spanish independence.

Towards the year 846, a group of Mozarabs (Christians who did not flee for the Muslims and lived under the Muslim regime) tried to repopulate the city, but a Muslim attack prevented that initiative. In the year 856, under the Christian king Ordoño I, another attempt at repopulation was made and was successful. Ordoño II made León the capital of his Kingdom of León (914) and the most important of the Christian cities in Iberia.

Sacked by Almanzor in about 987, the city was reconstructed and repopulated by Alfonso V, whose Decree of 1017 regulated its economic life, including the functioning of its markets. León was a way-station for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela. Suburbs for traders and artisans sprang up, who, after the 13th century, began to influence the municipal government. During the early Middle Ages, the livestock industry produced a period of prosperity for the city.

Later history

In the 16th century, economic and demographic decline set in and continued until the 19th century. In July 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, León joined the war against the Republicans.

During the 1960s, León experienced much growth due to in-migration from the rural zones of the province.

In 1983 León was added to the neighbouring region of Castile, to form the Autonomous Community of Castile and León. A minor popular and local political movement was opposed to being ruled from. Consequently, León is the centre of a minor, peaceful political movement for Leonese autonomy. Some of leonese people support the idea of creating a Léonese autonomous community formed by the provinces of Salamanca, León and Zamora, which have traditionally composed the Leonese Region.

Monuments and places of interest

León possesses many impressive monuments, from outstanding mediaeval to avant-garde modern buildings.The most notable monuments are the Rayonnant gothic Cathedral, with its excellent stain glassed windows, the Basilica of San Isidoro, with its tombs of the Kings of León and fine Romanesque paintings, and the old monastery of San Marcos (currently a luxurious parador) with an exuberant plateresque façade.

The Palacio de los Guzmanes, the site of the provincial "diputación" (parliament), contains an impressive patio in the plateresque style by Gil de Hontañón. The old quarter of the city conserves a large part of the medieval wall and some remains of the original Roman wall. One can also find the Casa de Botines, a neogothic styled building and an excellent example of the architecture of Antoni Gaudí.

León is the headquarters of the Castile and León Museum of Contemporary Art. Its building has an impressive modernist structure designed by the architectural team of Mansilla & Tuñón. One of the building's most distinctive features is its facade formed out of thousands of large stained-glass panels. The nearby León Auditorium, also by Mansilla & Tuñón, has an equally striking presence of crisp white cubes perforated by irregularly set windows.

Other points of interest include the Barrio Humedo (the drinking and partying area), the Universidad de León and the Plaza del Grano.

Folklore and customs

Among the Leonese customs, Semana Santa ("Holy Week"), during which there are numerous processions through the centre of the city, stands out. One of the most beautiful is the so called Procession of the Meeting which acts out the meeting of three groups representing Saint John, the Virgin Mary and Christ, in the esplanade in front of the city's Cathedral. Associated with Semana Santa is the pagan procession for the burial of Genarín, a poor person run over by the first garbage truck in León.Fact|date=June 2008

It is also remarkable San Juan & San Pedro festivity, celebrated during the last week of June. During these days several concerts and festivals take place and the whole town is occupied by terraces and street markets where Leonese people celebrates the beginning of the summer, specially on San Juan´s night (23 of June) when everyone goes out to enjoy the beautiful fireworks and bonfires.


The Leonese language is taught into two schools as an optional activity. There are several courses for adult people.
The City Council Government of León publishes the news in their Official Web Site in Leonese Language, and some other information or formulars about their activities.


In the last municipal elections (27 May, 2007) the results were:

* Spanish Socialist Workers Party ("Partido Socialista Obrero Español", PSOE) - 44.14% of the votes and council seatsand 13 seats)
* Partido Popular - 37.55% votes and 11 seats
* Unión del Pueblo Leonés - 10.88% and 3 councillors
* PAL-UL (2.38%)

Currently the city's mayor is PSOE's Francisco Fernández.


Within the wide range of Leonese cuisine the following dishes are the most representative: cecina (cured, smoked beef), morcilla (a superb variant of blood sausage), botillo (a dish of meat-stuffed pork intestine), garlic soup, el cocido leonés (a mix of meat with vegetables and chickpeas, served after a vegetable-vermicelli soup) and mantecadas (a sweet).Another very important part of the gastronomy of León are the tapas that you can get in most of the many bars in the city. The most important thing about these tapas is that they are free unlike in most cities in Spain. It is a very common thing to do to go "de tapas" or "tapear" i.e. to go for a few drinks ("un corto", which is a very small beer, "una caña", which is roughly half a pint of beer or "un vino," a glass of wine) just before lunch but more normally as a light form of dinner.

ee also

*Kingdom of León
*Leon (province)
*List of municipalities in León
*Castile and León



External links

* [http://www.aytoleon.es/ León City Council] (in Spanish)
* [http://www.leon.es/frontleon/en/frontLeonAction.do?action=viewCategory&idCategoryToShow=10000 Leon.es Tourism in León. Official Web Site] (in English and Spanish)
* [http://www.turismoenleon.com/ Tourism in León] (in Spanish)
* [http://leonspain.wordpress.com/ León, northwest of Madrid...]
* [http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/ Leon on the Camino de Santiago]
* [http://musique09.free.fr/espagne_new2/thumbnails.php?album=60 Photos of the city of Léon]
* [http://paradoxplace.com/Photo%20Pages/Spain/Camino_de_Santiago/Leon/Leon.htm Paradoxplace León Photo Pages]
* [http://leon.ocioyturismorural.com/ Rural Tourism in León] (in Spanish)

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