Yesterday I went on a day trip to León, about an hour and a half away from Oviedo. It was fantastic! Below is a map of where León is in Spain - slightly to the North you can see Oviedo, Gijón, and Santander to the west - all of which I’ve been to and mentioned before. To the far right/east on the Mediterranean you can see Barcelona, where I am going with my class next week and for which I am so excited! It’s our last class excursion and my last trip within Spain!
But yesterday I went to León. It’s a little bit smaller than Oviedo in terms of population, but is known all over for having the best Gothic cathedral in Spain. Most everyone knows of the cathedral in León.
León is on the other side of the mountains from Oviedo, and the drive through the mountains was incredible. It took about an hour and a half, and it was the first time all year I’ve gotten to see snow! It was quiet cold in León, and we were a bit underdressed, so it made for a bit of a cold day. The high for the day was around 45 degrees, which wasn’t what we expected. The wind was a bit strong
Of course, the first place we visited was “Catedral de Santa María.”
The stained glass windows are really what help set this cathedral apart. At the turn of the last century they removed all of the stained glass, put them in boxes, restored them, and put them all back up. A pretty impressive undertaking.
The cathedral has historically had significant structural problems. It was not originally engineered well, and the original dome had to be removed to save the cathedral from collapse.
Being the cathedral of Saint Mary, the Mary plays a huge part in the decoration of the cathedral. Below is “the birth of Mary.” It struck me because I’d never seen Mary’s birth represented - luckily it looks like her mother had a lot of help!
And here’s a relief depicting the angel commissioning Mary in carrying the Christ.
And of course pregnant Mary, an image I don’t think I’ve ever seen represented outside of children’s Christmas books. She pulls off the pregnant look very elegantly.
I thought this was really interesting - I can’t recall the name of the man who pierced Christ with the spear, but look at what he is doing with his left hand. Catholic tradition holds that a some of Christ’s blood spirt into his left eye, blinding him for life.
After the cathedral, we walked around a bit of the old part of town for a while, and ran into Antoni Gaudi’s “Casa de Los Botines.” It was built in 1893 as a private residence on the first floor with commercial space on the ground floor and rental units above, but was purchased in 1929 by the Bank Caja España, which still owns it today.
Across the street Gaudi is looking over some sketches. Antoni Gaudi is certainly Spain’s most famous architect, and next weekend in Barcelona we’re going to see his most famous work - “Sagrada Familia.” If you google “Barcelona,” Sagrada Familia will be one of the first images to come up. His works are pretty intense, and this building is one of his earlier, more relaxed projects.
Then we went to the town Basilica, the Basilica of San Isidoro, which houses the royal tomb for the Kingdom of Castilla and León - the church, the tomb, the library, and a few other elements are from before the 12th century.
By far the most fascinating place in the basilica is the royal tombs, which has mostly untouched frescos from the 12th century - truly unbelievable.
After that, we ended the night going to MUSAC, the museum of contemporary art of Castilla and León. It was what you’d think of when you think about modern art - weird staged rooms, lots of looping films with bizarre content, and very few traditional pieces. It was a bizarre contrast to the 12th century frescos we’d been looking at only an hour or so prior.
I don’t have that much longer in Spain. In the same way it feels like it’s going to be over before I know it, 5 weeks is still 5 weeks. The more time I spend in Oviedo, and strangely, the more I travel, the more I appreciate Spain. I am so stoked for our trip to Barcelona - I’ve heard many people say it’s their favorite city in Spain - and I think it comes at a nice time with that leaves us with about three weeks left.