The Holy Grail and cathedral’s stained glass
If there’s a star monument in the city of León it’s the Gothic cathedral, built in just fifty years during the 13th century with a stylistic uniformity that challenges comparison. Its interior is striking, thanks to the stained glass windows that, together with those of the Chartres cathedral in France, constitute some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass mastery in existence.
Other star monument must-see is the basilica of San Isidoro de León, which boasts the so-called anesque Art: a Royal Pantheon that safeguards an interesting collection of frescoes (11th – 13th centuries). Its representations of Biblical scenes and the agricultural calendar are astonishing.
This building also houses a medieval library and a museum containing the chalice of Doña Urraca, the subject of recent research that directly relates it to the legend of the Holy Grail. According to studies carried out at the Universidad de León and the Arab History Department at Madrid’s Universidad Complutense, this chalice, which consists of two pieces in the form of a bowl, comes from a temple in Jerusalem and dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
The chalice became part of the Fatimid Dynasty of Egypt and, from there, it made its way to the Iberian Peninsula during the 11th century, thanks to the Taifa of Denia (starting in 1030 the Caliphate of Córdoba broke up, giving way to small Muslim kingdoms called taifas along the Spanish Mediterranean coast). Its vizier presented it to King Ferdinand I of Castile as a gift (1017-1065) to commemorate a peace agreement. This passionate journey from the Middle East to León is reflected in the book Los Reyes del Grial (The Kings of the Grail), written by researcher Margarita Torres of León.
Leon will surprise you with Spanish Avant-garde architecture too. The Mansilla y Tuñón studio, design the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC – contemporary art museum), created as a 21st century homage to these stained glass windows through its coloristic designs for the large glass windows of the museum, an icon of the city.