|City of León|
|Autonomous community||Castilla y León|
|Distances|| 333 km to Madrid |
134 km to Valladolid
|Population|| City: 136.999 (2006) |
Urban area: 204.212 (2006)
|Demonym|| Sp. Leonés/Leonesa, legionense, legionés |
|Anthem||Himno a León|
|Local festivals|| San Juan and San Pedro (24 June and 29 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) is the capital of León province in the autonomous community of Castile and León, in northwest Spain. Its population of 136,985 (2006) makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for over one quarter 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 were buried, and 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.
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; 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.
The post-Roman history of the city is largely the history of the Kingdom of Leon. The station of the legion in Asturias 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 Spanish independence.
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. Ordoño II made León the capital of his Kingdom of León (914) and the most important of the Christian cities in Iberia.
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. 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.
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 minor popular and local political movement was opposed to being ruled from. Consequently, León is the centre of a minor, peaceful political movement for Leonese autonomy. Some of leonese people support the idea of creating a Léonese autonomous community formed by the provinces of Salamanca, León and Zamora, which have traditionally composed the Leonese Region.
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 Castile and León Museum of Contemporary Art. Its building has an impressive modernist structure designed by the architectural team of Mansilla & Tuñón. One of the building's most distinctive features is its facade formed out of thousands of large stained-glass panels. The nearby León Auditorium, also by Mansilla & Tuñón, has an equally striking presence of crisp white cubes perforated by irregularly set windows.
It is also remarkable San Juan & San Pedro festivity, celebrated during the last week of June. During these days several concerts and festivals take place and the whole town is occupied by terraces and street markets where Leonese people celebrates the beginning of the summer, specially on San Juan´s night (23 of June) when everyone goes out to enjoy the beautiful fireworks and bonfires.