León traditions have their roots in the remote past of a nation which fought to make a place for itself in history.  Nowadays, such traditions have been reclaimed by the people of León who keep them alive with zeal and affection, aware that these traditions constitute their past and their future as a nation with its own identity, inhabitants of the Kingdom of León.

The Cabezadas or Foro or Oferta

cabezadasThis tradition dates back to the year 1158, when a terrible drought devastated the Kingdom and the people implored the help of Saint Isidore, who worked a miracle and rain watered the fields of León and the surrounding areas. 

In order to demonstrate their gratitude to Saint Isidore, the people, represented by town council members, visit the Basilica of San Isidoro every year carrying a 25 pound weight candle and two wax axes as an offering.   The cathedral chapter awaits in the cloister to accept the offering, whilst at the same time insisting on the obligatory nature, or foro, of the same.  Subsequently, the chapter enters into a verbal battle and display of oratory skill with the town council members, who defend the voluntary nature of the offering, or oferta, whilst the cathedral chapter reiterates its obligatory nature.  Following exaggerated bows, the town council members, or Cabezadas, draw a close to the ceremony until another year.


The Cantaderas

cantaderasThe Cantaderas commemorate the victory of Ramiro I in the Battle of Clavijo, which put an end to the ignominious tribute of one hundred maidens, paid by the Christian kings to the Muslim world.

This celebration dates back to mediaeval times, but it is in modern times that it has achieved popularity.  In the past, the celebration was held on the 14th and 15th of August, but now it has been moved to the Sunday before the feast of St. Froilán on the 5th of October.  A procession of young women dressed in period costume moves from the Town Hall Square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento) to the cathedral, dancing to the rhythm set by the sotadera, or Arab woman, who will have to introduce them to Muslim customs.  Afterwards, the municipal delegation makes an offering to the Virgin and enters into a debate with the cathedral chapter concerning the obligatory nature or not of the offering made by the town council.  A similar ceremony to that of the Cabezadas, in this case the cathedral chapter plays the leading role.


The Filandones, or Calechos

The Filandones, or Calechos, comprise an ancient tradition, the origins of which are lost in the mists of time.  A filandón or calecho, as it is called in the region of Babia, is where people from a village meet in a specific house for recreational purposes.  In the course of the meeting, various stories and histories are recounted, or songs are sung to the accompaniment of instruments from the region.  The name Filandón is a derivation of filar or hilar, to spin, since the women took advantage of these social occasions to spin.


León wrestling (lucha leonesa) or aluches

aluchesThe lucha leonesa is another deeply-rooted tradition in León.  It is thought to have pre-Roman origins, although evidence for its existence dates from the Middle Ages.  Located in a rural world, the lucha leonesa is associated with cattle farmers, shepherds, millers, masons and woodcutters, etc.  It would appear that via the transhumance routes the lucha leonesa originated other forms of wrestling in the Kingdom of León, examples of which include the wrestling, or trinchas, and the vueltas, or marañas, of the province of Zamora, the Lucha de la Cruz in Salamanca, or the galholfa from the north of Portugal.



Transhumance, the seasonal movement of flocks from one region to another, had enormous economic significance for the Kingdom of León.   Shepherds began to organize these migrations in the 11th and 12th centuries, but it was in the 13th century that transhumance acquired its true importance.   Between the years 1260 and 1265, the Royal Council of the Sheep Holders Association (Real Concejo de la Mesta) was formed and cattle and sheep were led from the León and Zamora mountains to the pastures in Extremadura which had been won from the Muslims.  Although transhumance has lost the importance it had in the past, flocks continue to be moved in this way.  The shepherding tradition, a lifestyle in itself, is reflected in the customs and gastronomy of many towns.



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Photo Gallery

Catedral de Toledo Monedas. Museo de León. León Parador de San Marcos. León Cruz de Ferro. Foncebadón. León Arco de la Lealtad. Zamora Escudo. Ledesma El Legado de un Reino. Palacio Conde Luna Catedral. León El Legado de un Reino. Palacio Conde Luna San Isidoro. León