Monday, July 21, 2014

Basilica San Isidoro , Leon

Monday 9th June 2014

This basilica site was originally the site of a Roman Temple. Its Christian roots dated back to the 10th century when a monastery for St John the Baptist was built here. In 1063 it was rededicated to Isidore the Archbishop of Seville. He was the most celebrated academic and theologian of Visigothic Spain before the Arab invasion and occupation. With agreement from the Muslim Ruler of Seville Isidore's relics were brought to Leon to be buried in Christian soil.

The original church was built on a Roman temple for the God of Mercury. In the 10th century Leon kings built a community for Benedictine sisters there.  The church was destroyed when Al-Mansur invaded the region. A new church was built in the 11th century by Alfonso the V of Leon.

The church also became important because it is located along the route of the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela. Later Kings, Queens and members of the Royal family were buried in the church.

We were taken on a conducted tour inside the church , however no photography was allowed inside the church.

The basilica was built mostly in Romanesque style but subsequent addition had Gothic elements as well as some of the Islamic art style.

The Royal Pantheon has columns in Romanesque decorations and the ceiling murals were in a good preserved state. The 12th century painted murals were mostly of stories from the New Testament.

The Library contains a huge collection of old Bibles - it is interesting Arabic-style drawings decorating the pages of these old Bibles.

The most important exhibit in the Museum is the Chalice of Donna Urraca - which 2 local historians in March 2014 published a book claiming that it is the Holy Grail. Its origin from Jerusalem was brought to Cairo but was given to an Emir of Al-Andalus who had helped the Cairean Caliph during difficult economic times and famine  in Egypt. The Emir had given it to the Spanish King Fernando as a 'peace offering' - and it was kept in this church in Leon.

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