León’s Plaza Mayor, or main square, has the charm and stately bearing of other Plazas Mayores in Spain. It was built in two stages, the first ending in 1672 to plans by Father Antonio Ambrosio and the second ending in 1677, with plans by Franciso del Piñal. The slightly trapezoidal square was built after several blocks of the old city were razed by fire. One of León’s typical meeting places, it is still used by farmers and traders, as it was centuries ago, to hold their recently reinstated twice-weekly market there. The Council was wise enough to maintain the market after renovation work and the building of an underground car park.
The original name of the square was Pan (“Bread”) Square, as there were many bakeries nearby making their 8-pound loaves. The colonnade around the square has arches on stone pillars supporting two floors of living accommodation, the first with a continuous balcony and the second with individual ones. It has served as a bullring, a place of execution and a setting for the festivities of Queen Isabella’s court. It was here that the battle cry was first raised against the occupying French in 1810.
The Consistory, or (original) City Hall, is a deceptive name, for the building was hardly ever used as such. It is an early Baroque building also known as the “city balcony” and replaced the original House of Bakers, and is conceived as a palace with spired turrets on the corners. It was built between 1674 and 1677 with the participation of Simón de Vayas, Francisco del Piñal and Pedro del Hoyo. It has been a barracks, city hall, school, law courts, Municipal Archives, store and first aid centre, among other things. At present it is home to the municipal handicrafts workshop of the Holy Week Confraternities’ Board. Its balcony is used by dignitaries to watch processions, notably the Procession of the Meeting.