There are a few different versions about when this city was founded. Usually, it seems to begin with a Roman’s tale…
Some say that León was, like many other cities, a fortified camp of a Roman legion around the year 74 AD. Others, after having studied the archaeological discoveries, say that a hundred years before that legion arrived, another one had already been settled there, and they already would have given a name to this place: Legio, Latin for “Legion” and over the years had become its actual name, “León”.
The truth is León, in those times, was not a very important place. The Romans, who by then were very fond of the sweet aroma of gold that came from Las Medulas, had established their main city in Asturica Augusta. Now known as Astorga - a place that you can listen about some of its history in another of our audio guides.
As we were saying, León did not stand out as a village… Until the Visigoths, who had taken refuge in the mountains of Asturias after the Arabian invasion, made their way down and established their capital in this place. It all happened in the eve of The End of the World, as people believed it was going to be in those times. It was the 31st of December of the year 1000 AD.
Thing is, this fateful date didn’t make much of a difference for the Astur-Leonese court of the time, since they had also established in here their official capital in the year 999. The Astur-Leoneses were very optimist people and didn’t hesitate on settling down just a few weeks before the Apocalypse, which was feared all over Europe. They were true survivors, as Castilla and León’s history tells us. Since the foundation of their kingdom in the year 718, by a certain Pelayo, they had survived all kinds of calamities. From the invasion of the almost invincible Muslims, to every other kind of battles with different invaders and traitors. As a result, after so much trouble, they were not afraid of the last night of the year 1000 when the End of the World was going to happen.
And so, this magnificent city was born. Take a look at the Collegiate of San Isidoro, dating from that time. A building which we dedicate one of our audio guides.
History continued in León… Most of the times in a brutal way, like for example in the harsh winter of 1808, when the so called March of Death passed by here, thousands of Spanish and British soldiers running away from Napoleon in the middle of one of the biggest snow storms ever remembered in this part of the world.
But as it usually happens, after all the troubles, the calm arrived. And so, we get to the Leones “Belle Epoque”, when the actual city is defined and when buildings like the Palace of the Botines are built, probably one of the best works of the genius Gaudí.