A local woman — who coincidentally had a role in the film The Way — told us an intriguing legend about the church. During the original construction of the cathedral, laborers worked during the day, but upon returning the next morning they would discover their previous days work was ruined. After days of frustration they discovered a giant mole was to blame for the destruction. Naturally, to fix the problem, the laborers set a massive bear trap in the cathedral and the mole was caught. After killing the mole, the locals took its skin and hung it at the door of San Juan. More recently, the skin was tested and proven to be turtle skin, but the legend is still a fantastic piece of folklore for the city of León.
Beyond this fanciful legend the church is replete with remarkable stories and images — including what appears to be a statue of Saint Luke with sunglasses! However the most striking feature of the church remains the stained glass. At every turn your eyes are drawn to these magnificent sights featuring stories from the Bible and depictions of prominent saints. Old Testament figures dominate the north wall with New Testament on the south wall. Due to Spain’s geographical position, the sun will shine continuously through the south windows. The metaphorical significance highlights Jesus’ arrival in the New Testament, becoming the savior of the world. The north windows stay dark to show the desire for a long-awaited messiah.
Another prominent stained glass feature is the rose window stationed at the western wall of the cathedral. This massive window displays the Virgin Mary at the center surrounded by other major religious figures. The window’s western position allows the light of the sunset into the cathedral each evening.
The Santa Maria de León Cathedral is an almost perfect example of early Gothic style. The elegant lines and soaring windows of the Gothic style are free from the flourished details of the later Florid Gothic style, allowing us to truly appreciate the magnificent work of art that this church is. The peaceful and somber interior of the cathedral inspired us to ponder its intriguing history and architectural components. The Santa Maria de León Cathedral was definitely a favorite site and an unforgettable experience.