Basílica de San Isidoro

León, Spain

The Basílica de San Isidoro de León is located on the site of an ancient Roman temple. Its Christian roots can be traced back to the early 10th century when a monastery for Saint John the Baptist was erected on the grounds.

The original church was built in the pre-Arab period. Following the conquest of the area by Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir (938-1002), the first church was destroyed and the area devastated. León was repopulated and a new church and monastery established in the 11th century by Alfonso V of León.

Alfonso's daughter, Sancha of León, married Ferdinand, Count of Castile. Sancha's brother, Bermudo III, declared the war against Castile and Castilian troops, with the help of Navarre, killed the Leonese king, becoming Ferdinand I of León. He and his queen gave the crucifix that bears their name to San Isidoro. The church also benefited from its position on the famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. Sculptors, stonemasons and artists from across Europe gathered to work on the monastery.

Queen Sancha chose the new monastery as the site of the royal burial chapel. Today eleven kings, numerous queens and many nobles lie interred beneath the polychrome vaults of the medieval 'royal pantheon'. In 1063 the relics of Saint Isidore were transferred to the chapel, and a community of canons was established to maintain the monastery and ward the relics. The apse and transept of the building are in the Gothic style, whilst other parts of the building are Romanesque or of the Renaissance period.

Built mostly in the Romanesque style, the basilica has had major additions in the styles of many succeeding centuries including the Gothic. The arches on the crossing of the transept hark back to Islamic art. However the many styles merge into a harmonious whole. The carved tympanum of the Puerta del Cordero is one of the basilica's most notable features. Created prior to 1100, this romanesque tympanum depicts the sacrifice of Abraham.

The museum contains numerous examples of early medieval art including jewelled chalices and works of ivory and precious metal. The library holds 300 medieval works, numerous manuscripts as well as mozarabic bible dating from 960 and a Latin version transcribed in the Seventh Century. There is also a text of the Seventh Century law code of the Visigothic rulers of pre-conquest Spain. The Chalice of Doña Urraca is one of the most important pieces in this Museum.

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Details

Founded: 10th century
Category: Religious sites in Spain

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Stuart McCleane (7 months ago)
Although it has to play second fiddle to the Cathedral it is a beautiful church in it's own right. Situated in an exquisite square on the Camino route out of Leon it is well worth a visit.
Karen Decter (7 months ago)
This was great. The entrance was just outside the courtyard of our hotel and when we walked outside along the walls of the city we looked to our room as ot is the same building. I believe it was 5/6€. There is a QR code for an audio guide or they have laminated sheets in SP/EN/FR. There is a walk through the cloisters with several rooms displaying objects, the Pantheon with its decorated ceilings and a visit to the cathedral. Upstairs was one more room and the wall walk. Definitely worth the visit.
John Donnelly (11 months ago)
Beautiful but unfortunately no information in foreign languages. Photos or video not allowed
Ricardo A García Rivera (12 months ago)
Impressive historic collection. The romantic fresco paintings are truly a wonder to witness.
Ewa Coates (12 months ago)
The most beautiful part is the pantheon of the king's- with the original Roman frescoes
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