exploring inside one of the Camino’s cathedrals

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as impressive the history of the construction of the cathedral, the interior offers remarkable sites and has a fair bit of story as well. the fact I found most impressive: most of the stained glass (some 1,800 square meters of it) is the original glass and dates from the 13th to 15th centuries — something nearly improbable for me to comprehend having seen so many restored or battle-scarred cathedrals across Europe. moreover, the cathedral in León has more glass and less stone than any other cathedral in Spain; it’s sometimes known as the “cathedral without walls.”

without question the windows impress in their detail, color, and diversity. designs include scenes of traditional medieval life as well as depictions of “heavenly” saint-types and “earthly” saint-types. the northern windows, done in darker colors and which receive less light, depict the “heavenly” scenes — apostles and biblical scenes from the Old Testament. the south-facing windows, which receive more light, depict more mundane, “earthly” images, including vegetables, as well as stories from the New Testament.

on the wall of one of the south transept, mimicking that on the wall of the north transept, and tucked beside the door and beneath one of the rose windows, stands the tomb of Bishop Rodrigo, who oversaw the early stages of construction of the cathedral. he died before its completion and was laid to rest under an impressive and intricate sculpture. the Bishop of Zamora lies in a similarly designed tomb to the north.

there were some other unique features — a wall (transcoro) that cut the choir off from the front of the church fronted with alabaster plaques in a distinctly different style than the rest of the cathedral’s artwork; carvings in the back of all the choir seats of various noteworthy people (monarchs, Apostles, prophets, saints) in the 15th century style; a retablo behind the altar that went from five panels to a great deal more stretching up and obscuring the stained glass windows and back to five in one of the more modern restorations. and in the Capilla de la Virgen de la Esperanza there’s a sculpture of a pregnant Virgin Mary something my audio guide highlighted as unusual. can’t say I’ve ever seen one like it elsewhere … and it certainly stuck out from all the other art I saw in the cathedral. while the windows were my favorite aspect of the cathedral, as well as the openness of the space, the gaps in the stained glass — where white light streamed onto the floor — was almost as magical.


Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.