Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Cathedral of Leon

World Heritage Sites

Leon, Nicaragua has many nicknames.  It is called The City of Poets, The City of Lions and The City of Churches.  For me, the last title wins, hands down.

"There are fifteen beautiful churches in Leon," our driver told us as we entered the city. "Start with the cathedral."

How can you not?  The cathedral is the largest one in Central America and is located on the east end of the central square.  It dominates the city.  It is its hub and its heart.  The focal point from which all streets begin.  It is impossible to get lost in this city of 200,000 people.  Just scan the horizon for the giant white towers.  Each morning while we were in Leon, we set out in a different direction and always found our way home.

The cathedral was constructed between 1747 and 1814 and was consecrated by Pope Pius IX in 1860.  It is a blend of Baroque and Neoclassicism with a splash of Gothic.  The interiors are filled with natural light and gorgeous paintings, especially the Stations of the Cross.  It was designated a World Heritage Site in 2011.
After spending nearly two hours in the cathedral's interior, my travel buddy plopped down on one of the wooden benches.  "Ready for a cerveza?" he asked with hope.  Granted, it was pretty darn hot.  Nearly 90 degrees.

But I had done my homework.  "Sorry, dude, but the best is yet to come.  The rooftop."

He moaned.  But after paying the $3.00 fee and taking off his shoes, he stepped onto the white domed roof and gasped.  I swear my atheistic husband experienced a twinge of spirituality. 

  I couldn't get him to go back down!

The views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes were amazing. 

It got us oriented to this lovely place--the perfect beginning to a remarkable trip.

The next three days, we would visit this cathedral regularly.  The restaurant, El Sesteo, on the north side of the square, became our go-to spot for dinner.  We would sit outside and watch the park come to life every night with locals and tourists.  The bright white walls of the cathedral turned a dreamy golden yellow.  Teenagers sat on its steps, talking and laughing.  Vendors hawked sodas, ice cream and balloons.

Leon pulsated with life. 


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