The phenomenally beautiful 13th-15th century stained glass windows in León’s Catedral de Santa Maria are a truly wondrous sight, and one of Spain’s real treasures.
Nicknamed the ‘House of Light’, the cathedral (Pulchra Leónina) is regarded by many as the country’s finest example of Gothic architecture. With 1,765 sq m of stained glass as bright as wrapping-paper dominating the view from every angle, it’s a unique fanfare of colour.
If you are travelling in the region of Castile y León, or even have a spare day in Madrid, it is a hugely worthwhile trip. It left me awe-struck. At the very least it is one of the most colourful and spell-binding collections of 13th or 20th century jigsaw puzzles.
So powerful is it, that from the moment you step inside the cathedral, the seemingly limitless (but actually numbering 125) coloured stained glass windows will have you craning your neck to the heavens.
Gigantic and mesmerising, the glorious interior will make you lean back and stare upwards from a centuries-old pew, head back in hands, for ever and a day. The experience is particularly rewarding in sunshine. The kaleidoscope of illuminations gives the impression of a fairy convention welcoming all from far and wide.
Built to celebrate the defeat of the Moors at the battle of San Esteban de Gomaz, Ordono II constructed the original temple over a previous site of Roman baths. Alfonzo V gave the site further significance when coronated in 999. Over the centuries, the cathedral has undergone a myriad of successful restorations and facelifts, under the supervision of many different architects. The most significant stained-glass improvements were completed by the mid-15th century, under the guidance of architect Enrique.
Designed to recreate biblical reports of the light from heaven, the windows’ ornate craftsmanship and extraordinary mix of inter-linked colour-coding also show significant biblical moments and historical scenes.
These photos, taken when I visited León earlier this month, hardly begin to do this thrilling artistic wonder justice.
Like all rainbows, nothing beats seeing it first-hand.