León Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Central America.
The León Cathedral is located in the city of León in western Nicaragua. Its official name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary and it is the city’s most famous attraction.
Construction of the cathedral started in 1762 and work continued on it almost continuously until its completion in 1814. The massive cathedral is rectangular in shape and is 105 meters (347 f.) long and 57.13 meters (187 ft.) wide.
Exterior of the Cathedral
The city’s name is León which means lion in Spanish and the church as appropriately place a statue of a lion in front of the entry way into the cathedral.
The most interesting part of the façade is at the top of the building. There are three features that stood out to me as being distinct.
- Each corner of the façade has a large bell tower. Having a bell tower in front of the church is typical for Spanish style missions. The other churches in León also have two bell towers and I have seen a smaller version of this at the Mission Concepcion in south Texas.
- In the center of the building at the high point is a statue of Christ. There is a circular halo around his head that can be lit at night.
- On each side of the statue of Christ are brass bells that are being supported by a statue of a man on each side. The bell on one side is missing but the other bell is functional. It was actually sounded during my visit.
The rooftop is also the highlight
Similar to the façade, the rooftop is the most interesting part of the building. The rooftop has one of the most unique features that I have ever seen. It is covered with rows of small domes that are capped with a decorative steeple that houses circular small windows. In total, there are 34 domes on the roof that help provide ventilation and lighting.
The entire cathedral including the roof is painted white. The rooftop is probably painted white to help keep the building from being too hot but it makes for a very dramatic effect up against the bright blue sky.
Bells, bells, bells
Each of the bell towers have two windows in front that can be seen from the façade of the cathedral. The windows once held medium sized bells but some bells are missing. These bells can be functional as some have a rope attached to the ringer and some don’t.
Inside the bell tower are a groupings of small, medium and large bells. The bells are connect together so that all of the small bell, medium bell or larger bell can be sounded by group sizes.
The largest of the bells are the bells located on each side of the statue of Christ, one is missing. This bell in manually rang and it was actually rang during my visit.
Views near and far
The architecture on the rooftop is remarkable and is undoubtable the most notable part of the cathedral but the views from the rooftop are also very impressive.
The view in front of the León Cathedral is nice because it looks over the town plaza. It is very typical for the main church of the city to be located on the main plaza of the city. There was a huge colorfully decorated figure in the plaza which looked like the city was getting ready for a fiesta.
On the sides of the cathedral, the view of the red rooftops of the city could be seen.
The best view that could be seen was to the back of the cathedral. In that direction, other nearby churches could be seen and a group of volcanos could be seen in the distance.
The León Cathedral was interesting to visit. The façade of the building was attractive but the unique rooftop was the most fascinating. My first impression was that it reminded me of being in Santorini. The entire church was painted white and the dozens of white domes with the bright blue sky made me think of my time in Santorini.
The rooftop view at the rear of the cathedral was wonderful. I have seen volcanos before but I have never seen so many volcanos together. They literally stretched across the horizon, one after another as far as I could see. What an amazing view!