The Impressive Cathedral of Leon
No trip to the city of León would be complete without a visit to the city’s Cathedral. The Cathedral of León is known as being one of the biggest in Central America. The Cathedral features three main levels – the lower, intermediate and superior. Each level represents something different. The lower level features several underground sections that have been used as crypts for many centuries. Construction on the building started in 1746 and lasted roughly 100 years.
The city of León is named after León in Spain and, for some time during Nicaragua’s history, it was argued that León should serve as the country’s capital instead of Granada. The debate was eventually settled when Managua was named the country’s new capital. Today León is known for having some of the best colonial architecture in the country. Despite suffering the ravages of several bloody battles and even a bombing, the city still has mounds of character. You may still see some bullet holes dotting the walls of buildings as they draw attention to the unrest that the city once saw. Fortunately today things have changed and the people of León, while still strongly supporting the Sandinista government, are largely peaceful.
Today León is seen by many as being the ‘intellectual capital’ of the country with a brilliant university, a number of colleges and its massive ‘Metropolitan Cathedral’. It is said that when the plans for the cathedral’s construction were sent to Spain for approval, the building was shown with smaller dimensions than those actually used since there were fears that the Church would not approve the building of such a large cathedral. Whether or not that is true, you will find that the Cathedral of León is a beautiful building to visit. Besides boasting interesting architecture, it houses a good deal of religious art that dates from the mid-1700’s and ends with contemporary masterpieces. The church is also the burial place for most of the country’s prestigious political, intellectual and religious figures. One such person is the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío who made his mark in the 19th century.
After touring the magnificent Cathedral of León, visitors can make their way to the roof for a small fee. From this vantage point you can see much of the city of León, including surrounding churches, the giant gargoyles in the belfry and the surrounding volcanoes – a sight certainly worth seeing.