Gothic cathedrals in Castile-Leon: art that looks to the sky
Some monuments go beyond mere architecture. This is the case of the Gothic style cathedrals in the Castile-León Region, emblematic buildings that symbolised the resurgence of the cities where they were built. You will be amazed by the height of their towers and by the magical light of their multi-coloured stained glass windows. Come and discover the secrets of these cathedrals that reach up to touch the sky.
In the Region of Castile-León, in northern, inland Spain, you will find eleven beautiful cathedrals in a range of artistic styles located in its most important cities. Nevertheless, here we would suggest especially that you discover those in Gothic style. Why? On account of their walls with stunning stained glass windows, their beautiful pointed arches, their abundant decoration, their sculptures, the paintings on their altarpieces… An unforgettable visit for sure.
The city of Burgos is home to one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world, with the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Take your time to soak up what you are seeing there – this is an architectural gem, built over the course of 500 years. You will love its main façade, its six-pointed rose window, its slender towers and its eight statues of the Castile monarchs. Furthermore, inside there is a bronze tombstone belonging to Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (the legendary figure known as “El Cid Campeador”) and his wife, Doña Jimena. Another anecdote? Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte was the last person to come down the cathedral’s 16th-century golden staircase.
Some 170 kilometres from Burgos, in the city of León, you will find the second essential cathedral when it comes to discovering the beauty of Gothic architecture in this part of Spain. Here, what you will find most amazing is the light that floods into the building through its 737 stained glass windows. Two recommendations: don’t miss its spectacular rose window, its choir stalls (some of the oldest in Spain) and its famous, delicate statue known as the Virgen Blanca. What is more, its cathedral museum is home to a collection with more than 1,500 items of religious art.
Ávila and its cathedral, around 280 kilometres from León, must also be on your list for one main reason: it is the earliest Gothic work in Castile-León and a perfect example of how the Romanesque gave way to this new style. It is interesting because it is a cathedral-castle that witnessed historic events such as an uprising against Emperor Charles I of Spain. Come and admire its ambulatory and its slender main chapel, whose windows have tiny horseshoe arches.
These are some of the best options to discover the purest Gothic art of Castile-León. However, there are other cathedrals that combine Gothic style with others such as Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Classical, and they are all outstanding for one reason or another. This is the case of the following cathedrals: El Burgo de Osma with its 72-metre tower; Ciudad Rodrigo and its “perdón” doorway with almost 400 sculptures; Palencia, with major works of painting and sculpture; the New Cathedral in Salamanca with its stunning Baroque dome; Segovia, whose tower is the tallest anywhere in Spain; the sombre cathedral of Valladolid and that of Astorga, outstanding for its red colour and twin towers.
Best of all? To explore them all (remember to check opening times), to visit their cathedral museums, to let your imagination travel back to bygone times and to choose which one you find most beautiful. Whichever you choose, they will all strike you as stunning, majestic works of art.