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

Russell Davis (34 days ago)
Beautiful!! The guided tour is a must! We had a lovely guide and even my teenagers enjoyed it!!!
Olga S (3 months ago)
Impressive building and beautiful square.
Vivian_coll@yahoo.com Collins (9 months ago)
Beautiful Basílica with a lot of history. We were able to attend a special mass with a choir of nuns to celebrate that a new nun was taking her bows. The plaza in front of the church is very beautiful too.
FlyingFox (9 months ago)
Not just another ancient Cathedral. The history is breathtaking
Mark Newbury (9 months ago)
My wife and I were amazed by the beauty and history on display. The relics were beautiful and in excellent condition. We felt a real sense of is place in history. A must to visit...
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