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Bandera de León (ciudad).svg
(In details)
Escudo de León (ciudad).svg
(In details)
Leon, Spain location.png
Province León
Autonomous community Castile and León Castile and León
Autonomous community Spain Spain
Postal code 240xx
Altitude 838 m
Surface 39,20 km²
Distances 333 km to Madrid
119 km to Oviedo
Population City: 136.999 (2006)
Urban area: 204.212 (2006)
Demonym Sp. Leonés/Leonesa
Ll. Llïonés/Llïonesa
Anthem Himno a León
Local festivals San Juan and San Pedro (24 June
San Froilán (5 October)
Rivers Bernesga
Mayor (2007- ) Francisco Fernández (PSOE)
Local council website Ayuntamiento de León

The city of León (Llión, in the Leonese language[1]) is the capital of León province in the autonomous community of Castile and León in northwest Spain. Its population of 136,985 (2006)[2] makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for more than one quarter[3] of the province's population. Its urban area population is calculated at 204,212 (2006).

León is famous for its Gothic León Cathedral and many other monumental buildings, such as the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro, (which holds the Royal Pantheon, a mausoleum in which medieval Kingdom of León's royal family members were buried. The Royal Pantheon also has one of the world's best collections of Romanesque paintings); Casa de Botines (an early work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, nowadays occupied by a bank); San Marcos (originally the Military Order of Santiago's home, built in the 16th century); or the new MUSAC, the Castile and León Museum of Contemporary Art. León is also known for its "fiestas", like Easter. Leonese processions are declared to be of international interest and, on those days, many people from all over the world visit León to see and participate in its traditions.

León sits along the banks of the Río Bernesga and is the last major city on the Camino de Santiago before it climbs west into the sierras that separate Castilla from Galicia.





León was founded in the 1st century BC by the Roman legion Legio VI Victrix. In 68 AD Legio VII Gemina created a permanent military camp, which was the origin of a later city. Its modern name is derived from the city's Latin name Legio[4], which itself derives from the Roman legion recruited from the Iberians by Galba. The legion established the site of the city to protect the territory from the Astures and Cantabrians, and to secure the transport of gold extracted in the province, especially in Las Médulas.[5] Tacitus calls the legion Galbiana, to distinguish it from the old Legio VII Claudia, but this appellation is not found on any inscriptions. It appears to have received the appellation of Gemina[6] on account of its amalgamation by Vespasian with one of the German legions, not improbably the Legio I Germanica. Its full name was Legio VII Gemina Felix. After serving in Pannonia, and in the civil wars, it was settled by Vespasian in Hispania Tarraconensis, to supply the place of the Legio VI Victrix and Legio X Gemina, two of the three legions ordinarily stationed in the province, but which had been withdrawn to Germany.[7]

That its regular winter quarters, under later emperors, were at León, we learn from the Itinerary, Ptolemy, and the Notitiae Imperii, as well as from a few inscriptions[8]; but there are numerous inscriptions to prove that a strong detachment of it was stationed at Tarraco (modern Tarragona), the chief city of the province.

Gardens of Plaza de San Marcos

Kingdom of León

The post-Roman history of the city is largely the history of the Kingdom of Leon. The station of the legion in the territory of the Astures grew into an important city, which resisted the attacks of the Visigoths till A.D. 586, when it was taken by Leovigild; and it was one of the few cities which the Visigoths allowed to retain their fortifications. During the struggle with the Muslim invaders, the same fortress, which the Romans had built to protect the plain from the incursions of the mountaineers, became the advanced post which covered the mountain, as the last refuge of Cisastur Tribes.

Towards the year 846, a group of Mozarabs (Christians who did not flee for the Muslims and lived under the Muslim regime) tried to repopulate the city, but a Muslim attack prevented that initiative. In the year 856, under the Christian king Ordoño I, another attempt at repopulation was made and was successful. Alfonso III of León and García I of León made León city the capital of the Kingdom of León and the most important of the Christian cities in Iberia.

The Kingdom of León officially started as an independent Kingdom in 910, becoming an Empire who reached the Rhone river in the XII century.

Sacked by Almanzor in about 987, the city was reconstructed and repopulated by Alfonso V, whose Decree of 1017 regulated its economic life, including the functioning of its markets. León was a way-station for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela. With Alfonso V of León the city had the "Fueru de Llión", an important letter of privileges.

The Kingdom of León conquered the Leonese Extremadura, and was brought to their sisters by Fernando III, king of Castile, joining both crowns in 1230. His son, Alfonso X divided again the kingdom in his testament, but it was not accepted by the King of Castile, that rejoined both crowns. From 1296 to 1301 León was an independent kingdom again, and after that until 1833, when Spain was divided into regions and provinces, the Kingdom of León keep itself as a Spanish Crown territory, whose capital city was León unless a little period, when the French tropes invaded the Kingdom, that it was Carracedo.

First democratic Parliament in 1188

In 1188, Alfonso VIII of León joined in the city of León all the three states becoming the city in the first European Parliament, developing laws that protected the people. Suburbs for traders and artisans sprang up, who, after the 13th century, began to influence the municipal government. During the early Middle Ages, the livestock industry produced a period of prosperity for the city.

Old local council

Later history

In the 16th century, economic and demographic decline set in and continued until the 19th century. In July 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, León joined the war against the Republicans.

During the 1960s, León experienced much growth due to in-migration from the rural zones of the province.

In 1983 León was added to the neighbouring region of Castile, to form the Autonomous Community of Castile and León. A popular and local political movement was opposed to being ruled from. Consequently, León is the centre of a peaceful political movement for Leonese autonomy. Some of the Leonese people support the idea of creating a Leonese autonomous community formed by the provinces of Salamanca, León and Zamora, which have traditionally composed the Leonese Region, even though some other Leonese people are against it and feel Castilian-Leonese very proudly, and others don't care about it.

The Palacio de los Guzmanes, the provincial parliament (Diputación) in the capital

Monuments and places of interest

León possesses many impressive monuments, from outstanding mediaeval to avant-garde modern buildings. The most notable monuments are the Rayonnant gothic Cathedral, with its excellent stained glass windows, the Basilica of San Isidoro, with its tombs of the Kings of León and fine Romanesque paintings, and the old monastery of San Marcos (currently a luxurious parador) with an exuberant plateresque façade.

The Palacio de los Guzmanes, the site of the provincial diputación (parliament), contains an impressive patio in the plateresque style by Gil de Hontañón. The old quarter of the city conserves a large part of the medieval wall and some remains of the original Roman wall. One can also find the Casa de Botines, a neogothic styled building and an excellent example of the architecture of Antoni Gaudí.

León is the headquarters of the avant-garde MUSAC. This contemporary art museum opened in 2005 to become a landmark of the city. Its impressive design by the architectural studio Mansilla+Tuñón was awarded with the 2007 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. One of the building's most distinctive features is its façade formed out of thousands of large multicolored stained-glass panels. Close to the museum is the León Auditorium, also projected by Mansilla+Tuñón, which has an equally striking presence of crisp white cubes perforated by irregularly set windows.

Other points of interest include the Barrio Humedo (the drinking and partying area), the Universidad de León and the Plaza del Grano.

Folklore and customs

Among the Leonese customs, there's Semana Santa ("Holy Week"), during which there are numerous processions through the centre of the city, stands out. One of the most beautiful is the so called Procession of the Meeting which acts out the meeting of three groups representing Saint John, the Virgin Mary and Christ, in the esplanade in front of the city's Cathedral. Associated with Semana Santa is the pagan procession called "The Burial of Genarín". Genarín was an alcoholic beggar who was hit by and killed by the first garbage truck in the city of León in the year 1929.[citation needed] This is a celebration of alcohol, and the main purpose of the people who attend it is getting drunk in honor to the alcoholic beggar.

The San Juan & San Pedro festivities are also remarkable, celebrated during the last week of June (between June 23 and June 29). During these days several concerts and festivals take place and the whole city is occupied by terraces and street markets where Leonese people celebrate the beginning of the summer, especially on San Juan's night (June 23) when beautiful fireworks and bonfires take place.


León's climate is Continental Mediterranean climate (Köppen Dsa), a variant of the Continental climate and Mediterranean climate. The summers are softened by the proximity to the Cantabrian Mountains in the Northern part of León, but are extremely dry and hot in its Southern part.

In the winter, temperatures are cooler, with cold winters for Spain, whose temperature is usually between 15 °C (59 °F) and 2 °C (36 °F), even though sometimes it can get hotter or colder than that. It gets colder at night and hotter during the day, and during the night a little frost is frequent in the winter time, which melts as the sun comes out; however, despite the temperature, as in most of Spain, the sun shines very brightly most of the time all year long. Very little snow falls over in Leon 4 days on average per year and it usually melts rights away, some years it doesn't snow at all, while heavy snowfalls are extremely rare. Summer is hot and extremely dry, with maximum temperatures around 39 °C (102 °F), even though sometimes they raise up to even 45 °C (113 °F), and minimum temperatures around 21 °C (70 °F) during the night. Rain is not very frequent in León, sometimes months can go by without a hint of rain, and it rains 2 days per month on average.

Leonese Language

Palacio del Conde Luna.
I Festival Internacional de Televisión y Cine Históricu Reinu de Llión, in which Leonese language was official


Leonese language derives directly from Latin and was developed in the Middle Ages. At this time, Leonese was the official language of the Leonese Kingdom and achieved a high codification grade in the city of Llión[9]. The first written text in Leonese is Nodicia de Kesos (959 or 974); other works in the language include Fueru de Llión, Fueru de Salamanca, Fueru Xulgu, Códice d'Alfonsu XI, ou Disputa d'Elena y María or Llibru d'Alixandre[10]

Leonese language today

The situation of Leonese as a minority language has driven Leonese to near extinction and is considered a seriously endangered language by the UNESCO [11]. The Leonese language is basically extinct, and nobody speaks it or even knows it except for extremely few elderly people who live isolated in the mountains of the Northern part of the province of León. However, the people who wish to separate León from Castile and who support a Leonese autonomy are trying to bring the extinct Leonese language back. León City Council and Leonese language associations like the Asociación Cultural de la Llingua Llïonesa El Fueyu are promoting its knowledge and use.

Leonese Language Day

Leonese language day started in 2006, with the support of Leonese Provincial Government, and from 2008 the cellebration is organised by the León City Council.


At the end of the 1990s, several associations unofficially promoted Leonese Language courses. In 2001, the Universidad de León (University of León) created a course for Teachers of Leonese language, and Local Government developed Leonese language courses for adults. Leonese Language Teachers and Monitors Association (Asociación de Profesores y Monitores de Llingua Llïonesa) was created in 2008 and the promote Leonese language activities.


Lessons of Leonese language started in 2008, and is currently taught in sixteen schools in León city in 2008-2009 promoted by the Leonese Local Government Department for Education. This Leonese language course is for pupils in their 5th and 6th year of Primary School (children that are 11 and 12 years old), where Leonese language is taught with Leonese culture.

Adult people

More than one hundred persons are studying Leonese language in 2008-2009. There are five levels for adult people in the official courses that develops the Department for Leonese Culture of the Leonese City Council [12].


The Leonese City Council was founded in 1345. Actually, it has 27 city councillors.

In the last municipal elections (27 May 2007) the results were:

The Government of León is composed by the Socialist Party and the Union of the People of León. The mayor is Francisco Fernández, from the PSOE.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

León is twinned with:


Cecina:Leonese traditional food

Within the wide range of Leonese cuisine the following dishes are the most representative: cecina (cured, smoked beef), morcilla (a superb variant of blood sausage), botillo (a dish of meat-stuffed pork intestine), garlic soup, el cocido leonés (a mix of meat with vegetables and chickpeas, served after a vegetable-vermicelli soup) and mantecadas (a sweet).

Another very important part of the gastronomy of León are the tapas that you can get in most of the many bars in the city. The most important thing about these tapas is that they are free unlike in most cities in Spain. It is a very common thing to do to go "de tapas" or "tapear" i.e. to go for a few drinks ("un corto", which is a very small beer, "una caña", which is roughly half a pint of beer or "un vino," a glass of wine) just before lunch but more normally as a light form of dinner.

See also




  1. ^
  2. ^ Ine, 1 de Enero de 2006
  3. ^ Datos de áreas urbanas en 2006. Hay otras estadísticas que aportan cifras distintas. Véase Área metropolitana de León
  4. ^ Itin. Ant. p. 395; Λεγίων ζ Γερμανική, Ptol. ii. 6. § 30
  5. ^ Dion Cass. iv. 24; Tac. Hist. ii. 11, iii. 25; Suet. Galba, 10.
  6. ^ Respecting the use of which, and Gemella, see Caesar B.C. iii. 3
  7. ^ Tac. Hist. ii. 11, 67, 86, iii. 7, 10, 21--25, iv. 39; Inscr. ap. Gruter, p. 245, no. 2.
  8. ^ Muratori, p. 2037, no. 8, A.D. 130; p. 335, nos. 2, 3, A.D. 163; p. 336, no. 3, A.D. 167; Gruter, p. 260, no. 1, A.D. 216
  9. ^ Morala, R. (2004): Norma y usos gráficos en la documentacion leonesa. In: Aemilianese I, S. 405-429.
  10. ^ Menéndez Pidal, R. "El Dialecto Leonés". Madrid. 1906
  11. ^ UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages: Europe
  12. ^ </
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c

External links

Coordinates: 42°36.34′N 5°34.20′W / 42.60567°N 5.57°W / 42.60567; -5.57

Simple English

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