1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leon (Nicaragua)

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34037091911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — Leon (Nicaragua)

LEON, the capital of the department of Leon, Nicaragua, an episcopal see, and the largest city in the republic, situated midway between Lake Managua and the Pacific Ocean, 50 m. N.W. of Managua, on the railway from that city to the Pacific port of Corinto. Pop. (1905) about 45,000, including the Indian town of Subtiaba. Leon covers a very wide area, owing to its gardens and plantations. Its houses are usually one-storeyed, built of adobe and roofed with red tiles; its public buildings are among the finest in Central America. The massive and elaborately ornamented cathedral was built in the Renaissance style between 1746 and 1774; a Dominican church in Subtiaba is little less striking. The old (1678) and new (1873) episcopal palaces, the hospital, the university and the barracks (formerly a Franciscan monastery) are noteworthy examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Leon has a large general trade, and manufactures cotton and woollen fabrics, ice, cigars, boots, shoes and saddlery; its tanneries supply large quantities of cheap leather for export. But its population (about 60,000 in 1850) tends to decrease.

At the time of the Spanish conquest Subtiaba was the residence of the great cacique of Nagrando, and contained an important Indian temple. The city of Leon, founded by Francisco Hernandez de Cordova in 1523, was originally situated at the head of the western bay of Lake Managua, and was not removed to its present position till 1610. Thomas Gage, who visited it in 1665, describes it as a splendid city; and in 1685 it yielded rich booty to William Dampier (q.v.). Until 1855 Leon was the capital of Nicaragua, although its great commercial rival Granada contested its claim to that position, and the jealousy between the two cities often resulted in bloodshed. Leon was identified with the interests of the democracy of Nicaragua, Granada with the clerical and aristocratic parties.

See Nicaragua; E. G. Squier, Central America, vol. i. (1856); and T. Gage, Through Mexico, &c. (1665).