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The city of León, located at 42.59°N latitude, 5.57°W longitude, is the capital of León province in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon, in northwest Spain. Its population of 135,794 (2002) makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for over one-quarter of its population. Its urban area population is calculated at 185,391 (2003).
León is famous for the gothic León Cathedral and many other buildings, as the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro where is located the Royal Pantheon, or Casa de Botines a bank which is an early work of Antoni Gaudi. León is also known for the Easter. Lionese processions are declarated of International Interest. The most important of these is the Holy Friday one.
León was founded in 68 CE. Its name is derived from the Latin legio, from Legio VII Gemina , the Roman legion recruited from Iberians, which established the site of the city to control the territory from the wild mountaineers of Asturias and Cantabria, and secure the transport of gold extracted in the province, especially in Las Médulas . The early history of the city is the history of the Kingdom of León, conquered by the Visigoth king Leovigild and then by the Muslims in 712.
Towards the year 846, a group of Muslim Arabs tried to repopulate the city, but a Muslim attack prevented that initiative. In the year 856, under the king Ordoño I , another attempt at repopulation was made and was successful. Ordoño II made León the capital of his Kingdom of León (914) and the most important of the Christian cities in Iberia.
Sacked by Almanzor in about 987, the city was recontructed and repopulated by Alfonso V, whose Decree of 1017 regulated its economic life, including the functioning of its markets. León was a way-station for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela. Suburbs for traders and artisans sprang up, who, after the 13th century, began to influence the municipal government. During the early Middle Ages, the livestock industry produced a period of prosperity for the city. In the 16th century, economic and demographic decline set in and continued until the 19th century. In June 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, León joined the war against the Republicans.
During the 1960s, León experienced much growth due to inmigration from the rural zones of the province.
Since 1980 León has been the center of Lionese autonomism, which reclaims a self-government statute, and the separation from Castile. The more radical autonomists support the idea of creating the Lionese Country, which would be formed by the provinces of Salamanca, León and Zamora.
Currently, the mayor is Francisco Fernández (PSOE), who is governing in alliance with the autonomists (UPL).
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