Juan Martínez de San Millán was responsible for the arrival of the Jesuits in Leon and for providing the financing to create a school for teaching Latin and rhetoric. Further additions to the school included a primary school financed by the Town Hall, along with a chair in grammar by the Cathedral Chapter in an annex of the church (1571). Juan Martínez de San Millán was bishop of Leon from 1564 to 1578, when he died. His tomb can be seen in the church of Santa Marina.

Voto de San Millán

Up to the end of 17th century, teaching was mainly a private activity provided by lay teachers. Later, several municipal agreements show that the Town Hall thought of the Jesuits as a solution to the lack of teachers who could teach children and local residents to read and write, while also transmitting religious beliefs. Some years later an agreement was reached with the Jesuit school, in which the Town Hall would build and furnish two classrooms with patio while the Jesuits undertook to not charge the children who wanted to go to the school, and that the city would appear in the school’s coat of arms (agreements made in 1613, 1642, 1667 and 1669).

The agreement was broken some years later for several reasons, although the school continued to be maintained with a special tax. From then on education became an issue of special importance for the City Government, the contributions it made led to the creation of a local committee of public education through a Royal Order of the Ministry of Grace and Justice (1853), and the creation of an infants’ school (1864).

The memory of bishop San Millán was kept alive in the city for many years thanks to the school. The school itself provided funds so that the Cathedral would carry out an act of remembrance of San Millán (1578). The public procession organised by the Cathedral Chapter that runs from the Cathedral to the school, now the church of Santa Marina, also includes representatives of the City Government. “In recognition of same, a procession of members of the Cathedral and the City come to the church of our school once a year, where a sermon is held to thank that most holy of shepherds that cared so fondly for his flock”. The tradition died out in the 18th century.

The tradition and custom were re-established in 1999, rescuing the ancient San Millán´s Vow with a new ceremony in Leon to remember the bishop’s work and the commitment of the city to create and sustain public education.