León

León is the second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua. Founded by the Spanish as Santiago de los Caballeros de León, it is the capital and largest city of León Department. As of 2016, the municipality of León had an projected population of 206,264.

León is located along the Río Chiquito (Chiquito River), some 90 kilometres (56 miles) northwest of Managua, and some 18 km (11 miles) east of the Pacific Ocean coast. León has long been the political and intellectual center of the nation and its National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) was founded in 1813, making it the second oldest university in Central America. León is also an important industrial, agricultural, and commercial center for Nicaragua, exporting sugar cane, cattle, peanut, plantain, and sorghum. The city has been home to many of Nicaragua’s most noteworthy poets including Rubén Darío, Alfonso Cortés and Salomón de la Selva.

(Pictures taken in 2015)

Church of la Recolección, construction began on December 5, 1786, by Bishop Juan Félix de Villegas thanks to contributions made by parishioners. Its Mexican baroque façade is considered one of the most important in the city. The interior also contains one of the best baroque altarpieces in the city highlighted with paintings and silver engravings.

The Lady of Grace Cathedral, León, also known as Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary and the “Real and Renowned Basilica Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, is a significantly important and historic landmark in Nicaragua. The Cathedral was awarded World Heritage Site status with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

More pictures here: THE STATE VISITS – WORLD HERITAGE SITES

Church of el Calvario, a fantasy of textures and colors of pure Leonese baroque. The façade consists of a central body, painted off-yellow with white trimming supported by white, half columns. The gable contains high reliefs of the passion of Christ. The two flanking bell towers painted Burgundy red and highlighted with white grooving, are made up of reliefs representing bricks. The central body contains a central Roman arch door flanked by two smaller, flat ones. They are all separated by columns, topped by a frieze covered in white garlands. The interiors are a pleasant soft white to keep them cool during the long, hot, and dry Leonese summers. The ceiling, also white, is highlighted by red and yellow outlining in the shape of crosses, leaves, and flowers. Built by the illustrious Mayorga family, el Calvario dates from the first half of the 18th century and it is one of Leon’s architectural jewels at the east end of calle Real or “Main Street”.

Church of San Francisco is part of the convent of San Francisco, one of the oldest in Nicaragua, founded in 1639 by Friar Pedro de Zúñiga. In the interior remain two good examples of plateresque altars. However, its main attraction is the courtyard. Built in pure, Leonese colonial style, this is a grassy expanse with an ashlar fountain at the center from which four radiating walkways, flanked by manicured lemon trees, lead to the surrounding porticoes where some of the columns are covered in red bougainvilleas. Towards the south, a line of royal palms shade the roof and complete the peaceful ensemble.

Church of la Merced, in 1762 the Mercedarian fathers built the first convent and church, but these were later demolished. In the 18th century, the present Church of la Merced was erected with drawings attributed to Mercedario Friar Pedro de Ávila and conducted by master builder Pascual Somarriba. Adjacent to the north side of la Merced is the Paraninfo (former Mercedarion convent) built in beautifully delicate baroque style, which is now UNAN’s main administrative building.

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