León has many treasures, the cathedral, beautiful happy streets, churches, old Roman walls and baths, and more. I stayed here an extra day to regain some strength.
On top of every visitor’s list should be the cathedral, arguably the finest example of Gothic architecture anywhere. Stunning, magnificent, extroidanery, thrilling. It is a world treasure of mankind’s achievements in architecture, glass, balance and beauty…..enormous but also intimate.
The stained glass is the main feast for the eyes, having countless panels on all sides. When I learned of the restoration going on in which one square meter panel of glass costs 4000€ to restore, I was happy to have paid my 6€ to see this architectural masterpiece.
I attended mass in this side altar one evening. I had noticed, with delight, that the priests along the Camino route who had given the pilgrim masses I attended had twinkly eyes and warm smiles. In this León cathedral chapel the mass was given by a lifeless old fellow who gave a monotone service. Raised Catholic, I had come to regard every item on the altar as sacred, holy. Mid-breath during reciting the mass this priest’s eye trained on what appeared to be a cockroach scurrying across the altar. As swift as could be, the priest grabbed the cloth than covers the chalice and Bam! The fast bug was dead and the priest back to the monotony. Where he lacked in inspiration he made up for in entertainment!
For the first time ever I saw a pregnant Mary with Christ Child. I was touched by it. I later saw another in the Iglesia de Isadora just a few minutes walk away. These seem special and I wonder how common this sweet image is in Christendom.
I also paid for a tour to see the Holy Grail at Iglasia de Isadora, believed by many to be the real cup that Christ used at the Last Supper. It’s a rather long story of how it came to be here and why it is thought to be authentic. However, I noted the tour guide said, “It’s a theory.” The cup was still neat to see. From my perspective, however, if a spiritual Master held this cup I think the vibration would be amazing to be near it. When I saw Saint King Ferdinand III’s (former incarnation of Paramhansa Yogananda) clothing in Burgos, it was thrilling to me. For this Holy Grail cup, I felt nothing. You will have to see it and make your own assessment!
(I’m enjoying the sunrise on my balcony at Albergue León Hostel, which I highly recommend for cleanliness, comfort, and bring close to the cathedral.)
Also in León, to add to my supreme enjoyment, I learned an annual organ concert series began this evening, featuring The 4000-pipe León cathedral organ. I realized being sick allowed me first to experience the singing nuns, and now during my León rest day I delighted to attend this magnificent concert (at least two surprise blessings from having gotten sick and not been able to hike on as quickly).
David Briggs, the organist was superb. He played pieces by Back, Haydn, Ravel, and others; from the deep resonating dramatic base notes filling the reaches of the cavernous cathedral, to high-note dancing pipes that sounded like the Sugar Plum Fairy. The finale piece seemed to have sounds that danced around you, swirling, dancing, climbing, accelerating, swirling, until they filled every atom of the space. Sitting in the dark cathedral from 9:00-10:30pm with the spotlights outside lighting the stained glass all around: sublime. What an astounding experience that I will never forget, a Cannon favorite for me.
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