The church San Isidoro in León
Is doubtlessly one of the most important stations along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. San Isidoro, the coronation church of the Castilian-Leonesic dynasty, is famous because of the comprehensive building sculpture that pervades the structure both in the interior and exterior. Also the magnificently furnished gravesite of the kings of León-Castile, the so-called Panteón de los reyes that borders directly on the church, impresses with its high-quality mural paintings and capitals. Due to the rich figurative building sculpture in the complex of churches, San Isidoro, constructed in 11th/12th centuries, counts as a key work for today's art historians. Today San Isidoro presents itself as a barrel-vaulted, triple nave basilica with cantilevered transept. The half-round middle apse of the choir section was replaced by a polygonal Gothic structure in the 16th century. San Isidoro can be traced back to a monastery church which was originally devoted to the saints San Pelayo and San Juan Bautista and which King Alfonso V (999-1028) had rebuilt from "clay and bricks" after its destruction by Almansur. In the course of the transfer of the bones of Saint Isidor (around 560-636), the famous church instructor of the western Gothic age, from Sevilla to León, Alfonso's daughter Sancha and her husband Fernando I had the edifice rebuilt in stone. At its consectration on December 21,1063, this building, based on the Asturian kings' edifices of the 9th century, obtained the patrocinium of San Isidoro. The church, called the Fernando church in research literature, was - according to excavation results - a triple-nave basilica without transept that ended with rectangular apses in the east, similar to the Asturian church San Salvador de Valdediós. Parts of its northern and western walls were integrated into the construction of San Isidoro, which is still conserved today. The gravesite of the Castilian-Leonesic kings, representing an expansion in front of the western facade of the Fernando church, dates to Urraca of Zamora († 1101), daughter of Sancha and Fernando. The Panteón de los reyes appears today as a nearly quadratic, two-story building that is subdivided into groined vault naves on the ground floor and spanned by a continuous vault on the upper floor. It is not sure whether the Panteón replaced a former building on the site. Today's church of San Isidoro resulted from several construction phases, the chronological order of which is still debated today. Contrary to the findings of older research literature, it can be assumed that the new building was not constructed in one go from one end to the other, but instead that the old Fernando church was adapted and reconstructed from different sides successively. This resulted in the cantilevered transept that was realised only at the end of the building campaign due to a change of plans. It is also a matter of debate whether the construction project can be ascribed to the successor and son of Fernando I, Alfonso VI (1065-1126, from 1072 King of Castile and León) or his sister Urraca of Zamora, who is the favored sponsor by the majority of researchers. The construction of the new church building of San Isidoro can be stated therefore only conditionally as dating to the 1070s, until its documented consecration in the year 1149. Since the dating of the sculpture of the outer building and the capitals inside the church is directly connected with the chronological progression of the building itself, the Leonesic edificial sculpture's historical importance rises and falls based on each particular researcher's opinion.