The origins of the city of Leon go back
to the year 68 AD, when the Roman Legio Septima Gemina, the legion
formed by the Emperor Galba with men from the Iberian settlements,
was quartered here, at the confluence of the rivers Bernesga and
Torio, to hold back the advance of the Cantabrian and Asturian
highlanders. During the reign of Ordono II it became the most
important city in Christian Spain. After being sacked by Almanzor
it was rebuilt by Alfonso V, and was enlarged during the 11C.
According to the chronicles of pilgrims who were heading for Santiago
de Compostela, Leon was a city that was 'full of all happiness'
and, consequently, a place of growing trade. In fact it was, for
according to the 'Pilgrims' Guidebook' that was the Codex Calixtinus,
it marked the eighth stage on the journey.
Leon itself lies on a fertile plain surrounded by woods, orchards and meadows, and has a population of over 120,000 inhabitants. Within the two cities it encapsulates, i.e. the old medieval part and the modern one that stretches alongside the river, there is an extraordinary historical and artistic heritage. The Roman and medieval walls in between help to highlight the beautiful contrast between the old quarter and the squares, known as the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza del Mercado, and the avenues, modern buildings, parks and gardens that lie to the west. The three most characteristic monuments that stand out for their great artistic value in Leon are the Cathedral, the Collegiate Church of San Isidoro and the Convent of San Marcos.