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Route of the cathedrals in Castile-León

Although the distances from one city to another and not particularly long, in total we will need to cover an itinerary of 1,000 kilometres in order to take in the eleven cathedrals in Castile-León. The best plan is to not to be pressed for time, as we'll also come across numerous towns and villages which are home to important historic and architectural monuments.

We begin with the ancient Kingdom of León. The city of León, one of the most important landmarks on the Way of Saint James, was at one time the capital of this kingdom, and boasts one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain. It was built between the 13th and 16th centuries and is a fine example of the French Gothic style. It has earned the name “Pulchra leonina” (León's beautiful cathedral) thanks to its 737 stained-glass windows which offer such an amazing spectacle of light and colour.

We continue our route to the town of Astorga, 39 kilometres from León. In Roman times it was known as “Asturica Augusta” and was one of the most important cities in Spain. Building on today's cathedral began on the old Romanesque episcopal site in 1471, in the late Gothic style. The work continued through subsequent centuries: the high altarpiece is Renaissance (1560), the main façade is Baroque (completed in 1704) and the cloister is neoclassical (1772).

The city of Zamora stands on the banks of the Duero river, 136 kilometres away. In keeping with its name, 'the City of the Romanesque', its cathedral could be in no other artistic style. Built in the 12th century, its most outstanding features include its tower and the emblematic shape of its ribbed dome (in the Byzantine style). This dome directly influenced the next cathedral on our route.

This is 65 kilometres away n the university city of Salamanca, which boasts the singular distinction of having two cathedrals, known as the old and the new, which moreover stand back-to-back. The Old Cathedral is in the purely Romanesque style (12th century), and this is where we see a ribbed dome (the Torre del Gallo tower) similar to the one in Zamora. The New Cathedral, has a more monumental appearance and features a mixture of late Gothic and Renaissance styles (16th century). Its construction required the demolition of one branch of the transept and part of the nave of the Old Cathedral.

After another 86 kilometres we reach the town of Ciudad Rodrigo with its Romanesque-Gothic cathedral (12-14th century), whose particular features include the sculpture group on the El Perdón doorway.

Then, 183 kilometres on we come to Avila. The city of Saint Teresa of Jesus is surrounded by the best-conserved Romanesque walls (12-14th century) in Spain. However, its cathedral is the first fully Gothic building in Castile-León (12th to 14th century). Its most distinctive characteristic is its appearance of a cathedral-fortress, which is enhanced by certain architectural elements such as the battlements.

Our next stop is Segovia, 67 kilometres on. Construction began on its current cathedral in 1525 in the late Gothic style, at the initiative of the Gil de Hontañón family. It has a surprisingly slender shape; its tower is one of the highest in Spain. Its interior is home to a particularly rich collection of chapels, altarpieces and sculptures.

We continue our route to the province of Soria, and specifically to the city of El Burgo de Osma. After a journey of 132 kilometres, we'll see how this cathedral combines the whole range of styles: from the Romanesque, through the Gothic and Renaissance, all the way to the Baroque, which is the style of its monumental tower, its most outstanding feature. Construction began in 1232 and was finally concluded in the 18th century.

From this town in Soria, we continue on along the banks of the Duero river for some time until we reach Valladolid, which awaits us at a distance of 166 kilometres. Its cathedral is the only one which remains unfinished. It has a classical spirit, with pure and sober lines. It was designed by Juan de Herrera in the early 17th century, and the work was continued by Alberto Churriguera in the 18th century.

We then move on to Palencia, at a distance of 52 kilometres. Its cathedral is in the Gothic style and is distinguished by its pure lines. Building began in 1321, and was concluded in the Renaissance period. Its most outstanding feature is that under the building there is a crypt containing two earlier constructions: one Romanesque and another dating from the time of the Visigoths.

Some 90 kilometres away we come to the 11th and last of the cathedrals in Castile-León; this is the cathedral of the city of Burgos, located, like the cathedral in León, on one of the most important points of the ancient pilgrim route of the Way of Saint James. It is also the only Spanish cathedral which has been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO on its own merits, and it's easy to see why. Here the full Gothic style with Burgundian influences reaches its greatest splendour in naves, façades, chapels and cloister. The work began in 1221 and continued throughout the centuries of the Gothic. The slender towers with spires date from the 15th century, and are among its best-known features.

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