Las Cantaderas 2023
Discover the history of one of the city’s most emblematic celebrations, where music, dance and fire come together.
This civil and religious ceremony is held every year on the Sunday before the holiday of San Froilán (5th of October) and commemorates the Christian victory in the Battle of Clavijo and the liberation of the legendary “Tribute of the Hundred Maidens”, which the kings paid annually to the muslim caliphs.
Nowadays, the celebration of this festivity is similar to what it was back then: young girls dressed in medieval costumes dance to the rhythm set by the “sotadera” (a Moorish woman who was to instruct them in muslim customs and convince them of their future happiness in the lands of the Caliphate), advancing from the San Marcelo square to the Cathedral, followed by the Municipal Corporation, in charge of making an offering to the Virgin.
This event is the tribute and gratitude that the people of León pay to the Asunción Virgin for liberating the Kingdom from the ominous tribute of sending the Hundred Maidens to the harems of Cordoba.
Las Cantaderas is one of the most traditional ceremonies in the annals of León. This commemoration has always taken place on the 15th of August, but in recent years the celebration was moved, first to the 29th of June, St. Peter’s Day, and then to the 5th of October, St. Froilán’s Day, finally being held on the Sunday before the St. Froilán festivity.
The celebration lasted three days and began on the 14th of August, ending with the ceremony of the “Foro u Oferta” at midday on the 17th. On the afternoon of the 14th, the forty-eight singing maidens went to the Cathedral, twelve for each of the city’s most important parishes: San Marcelo, San Martín, el Mercado and Santa Ana.
In front of the Cantaderas would come out a cart pulled by a pair of oxen with their horns decorated
They were dressed for the occasion and were preceded by the “Sotadera”, dressed in a Moorish costume, who was in charge of leading the dance. They danced in the choir in groups and in front of the main altar in pairs. When night fell, a solemn mass was sung before the Virgen Blanca and ended with tarascas and fireworks. All this happened because of a very old custom, since the battle of Clavijo, in thanksgiving for the victory that freed this Kingdom from the tribute of one hundred maidens that was imposed by Mauregato. The big day of the celebration was that of the Assumption, 15th of August, which was celebrated with great solemnity, in memory of the battle that King Don Ramiro won on the fields of Clavijo. The King’s cortege was formed in the Poridad square, in front of the bugles and drums, and behind them were the Cantaderas girls carrying bouquets of flowers, lead by the Sotadera or Gomía. They were followed by the townspeople, with the rest of the corporation and ministers.
In the Cathedral, the procession began through the cloisters while the Cantaderas danced. At the door of Nuestra Señora del Dado, the group of Cantaderas from the Parish of San Marcelo offered the Bishop a basket of pears and a basket of plums.
On the 16th of August, new performances took place and once again the Cantaderas dance took place in the Oficios, and the following morning the festival was brought to a end with the “Foro u Oferta” ceremony, forming the same procession as on the day of the Assumption, in the Poridad. In front of the Cantaderas, a cart pulled by a pair of oxen, with their horns decorated would go out. The cart also carried agricultural products from the land and a quarter of one of the bulls fought the previous day. The Cantaderas and the carts entered the cloisters of the Cathedral in procession. There, in front of the image of Nuestra Señora del Foro u Oferta, with a cleric kneeling at her feet, said to be a canon of San Isidoro, offering a quart of butter with honey to the Cathedral Council, the procession stopped and the group of the Cantaderas from the parish of San Marcelo offered the double basket of pears and plums, a basket of bread rolls and the quarter of the fighting bull. This was “Foro u Oferta”.
The festivity has now been moved to the Sunday before the 5th of October, the celebration of San Froilán. The ceremony is similar to what it was then: young girls dressed in medieval costumes dance to the rhythm set by the “sotadera”, a Moorish woman who was to instruct them in muslim customs, advancing from the Town Hall square to the Cathedral; behind them the Municipal Corporation, responsible for making an offering to the Virgin, marches among the “maceros de honor”.