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.

References:

Comments

Your name



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

Isaac Herszenhorn (2 years ago)
Amazing place to visit in Leon and to learn about the history of the city.
Bertalan Péter Farkas (2 years ago)
It is part of the León City Museum. Fascinating enterieur and historical! Recommended to visit.
Ruby Tuesday (2 years ago)
Amazing collection. No photos allowed
Josephine Lampe (2 years ago)
The museo and pantheon tour in English was fantastic. Really informative and the library of ancient books and the paintings in the pantheon were great to see. The basilica is beautiful.
Kimber Rischar (2 years ago)
This is a gorgeous basilica that's a little over 1000 years old. The details and the history of the place are incredible.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Heraclea Lyncestis

Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.

Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.

The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.

Late Antiquity and Byzantine periods

In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.

The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.

The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.