Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Collegiate Church of Saint Isidoro

At the northeast side of the roman encampment Legio VII Gemina (Leon) (now in Spain), by the camp wall, King Sancho the Fat (dead in 966), son of Ramiro 2nd, built a monastery for sheltering the rests of the martyr boy from Cordoba, St. Pelayo (we can see a sculpture of him in the front of the church). Her sister, a nun called Elvira Ramirez, moved with all the nuns of her elder monastery, Palat del Rey, to the new one. In the last Xth century, due to the arrival of Almanzor's army, the nuns went to Oviedo for refuge. The monastery of St. Pelayo in Leon was razed by the Arabic chief troops. King Alfonso the Vth (999-1027) rebuilt the monastery using very poor materials, like clay and bricks. Once more, a community of nuns established there, for taking care of the Royal cemetery, where the King had moved the rests of his predecessors, who were dispersed along various kingdom churches; even his parents's, Vermudo the IInd and Elvira.

The daughter of Alfonso the Vth, Doña Sancha, first infant and after the Queen herself, tried to exalt the monastery to the highest dignity, helped by her husband, King Fernando the Ist (1037-1065).

They rebuilt the elder brick monastery out of stone and so began the romanic style in their kingdom. They choose the portic of the church as a cemetery and ordered to be buried there. .

They wanted to dignify their church with relevant saints relics; they achieved the moving of St. Isidoro's corpse from Sevilla and St. Vicente's from Avila. They made an extraordinary feast in december, 21st, 1063, and next day they celebrated the moving of St. Isidoro. For this special event, they made splendid donations, jewels and ornaments, that we know nowadays as the Treasure of Leon.

Fernando and Sancha's daughter, infant Urraca Fernandez (dead in 1101), enlarged the church and made splendid donations, like the well known chalice. Another infant, Doña Sancha Raimundez (dead in 1159), with her brother, Emperor Alfonso the VIIth, continued the works in the elder church, began by her grand aunt Doña Urraca, and consecrated the new church in 1149. A year before they had substituted the benedictine female comunity in the monastery by an ordinary prebendaries Council. They ruled the temple and the abbey until 1956, when the council was changed into a secular priests institution, and since then it takes care of the liturgical and intellectual life of the Collegiate Church, the Temple, the Museums open to thousands of visitors, both national and foreign, the Archives and the Library at the disposal of researchers, the Isidorian Editorial and Bookstore, with the main purpose of divulging the history and the art the Collegiate Church and the life of Saint Isidoro.

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