The stunning nave

I inherited from my father an unavoidable fascination for the Pulchra Leonina. From a very young age he made me know it and, before the porticoes or inside, he talked to me about the figures or the stained glass windows as if he were showing me the most wonderful of universes, both material and fantastic. However, in my school books I never read allusions to the Cathedral of my city, but to that of Burgos, which when I saw it seemed taller and wider, but not as slender or beautiful as mine… About my Cathedral I have found similarities in the Parisian Sainte Chapelle and in the Cathedrals of Chartres and Reims but, either by size, in the first, or by the presence of less abundant and colorful stained glass windows, in the other two (by the way, the crystals of the main rose window of Chartres’ Cathedral were made in León), the joy with which I visited them never made me forget the beauty of the Pulchra

Years go by and, whenever I go to León in the company of my wife, also from León and Cathedral lover, the first thing we do is to visit the temple. Upon entering, our initial gaze searches for the leaves, flowers and heads, human or animal, which appear among the vitreous vegetation of the low windows and which —although over the years I learned that they were the representations of certain sins and attitudes— they have shown me a welcome gesture since I was a child. Then, we slowly walk through the temple, moving our eyes through the spaces of the different heights while glimpsing the Cristobalon with the Child on his back, or greeting the Virgen de la Esperanza, who observes us with such warm serenity, and the Virgen Blanca, who displays the sweetest Gothic smile, holding in her left arm a Child Jesus also welcomingly smiling, and observing that precious nativity scene that, with its mule and ox, indicates that both elements have been in the Christmas baggage for some time. centuries … And we also greet Ordoño II in his tomb, which clearly shows us that León lived in times when it was not reduced to a public role of the lowest category, as in the time we live in… And if the organ sounds, the walk will be incomparable.

But our walk and our glances —stained glass windows, chapels, high altar, choir seats, retrochoir…— will end for me when we sit on one of the benches of the transept. Also since I was a child I experienced, closing my eyes after looking through all the spaces with my gaze, the feeling that I was not inside a building firmly attached to the surface of the Earth, but traveling in a kind of air vehicle which joined its brightness to the stars.

It is one of the most interesting experiences of my life: I close my eyes again, and I enjoy my stay, brief but intense, in the most splendid and dazzling spaceship.


– José María Merino –

Spanish Prize for Lettrers