León Cathedral was built over a period of 50 years in the second half of the 13th century in a uniformity of Gothic style. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was in crisis. Europe was rural and sparsely populated, a peasant Europe of serfs with subjection to feudal masters. In the 11th century Europe started to emerge from the tunnel and there started a development of artistic unity..... the Romanesque style of architecture. Heavy stone vaults which required very thick walls with practically no windows so as not to weaken the structure, and with tremendous buttresses. The result was a solid, massive style.
Population increased after the 12th century and cities grew, with their guilds of artisans and merchants. The bourgeois class was born and with it a new urban culture. It was discovered that it was not necessary to build such massive vaults. It was enough to construct ribs that crossed each other and to fill the spaces with lighter material. Thus was born the cross ribbed vault...... the beginning of the Gothic style. It first appeared in Northern France, around Paris, but soon spread throughout Europe. Walls were higher and lighter, windows bigger. Buildings stretched, got larger and were filled with light. the new style was grandiose and seemed to have no limitations. Cities vied with each other to have the largest and most perfect temple. In just one century more than 200 Gothic cathedrals were built throughout Europe.
In Spain, the year 1212 saw a Christian victory at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. The "Reconquista", acknowledged to have begun around 720 A.D., was almost complete and the collapse of Muslim power accelerated. Granada, the last Islamic state on the Spanish peninsula, fell in 1492. It was followed the discovery of the New World, and the period of the Portuguese and Spanish colonial empires which followed. Cultural and religious euphoria erupts in Christian kingdoms. It is then that the first Gothic cathedrals are built. Toledo, Burgos, León..... represent the best output of expression of this triumphal time.
Construction of León cathedral began around 1253 on the remains of the old Romanesque cathedral. Alphonso X, the Wise, had just ascended to the throne of Castille and León and all the arts flourished during his reign. Leon had only 5,000 inhabitants during the 13th century and it was a remarkable undertaking to build the cathedral.