Burgos Cathedral

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Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos
Catedral de Santa María de Burgos
Fachada de la Catedral de Burgos.jpg
Gothic Burgos Cathedral
Basic information
Location Burgos, Castile and León, Spain
Geographic coordinates 42°20′26.9″N 3°42′16.1″W / 42.340806°N 3.704472°W / 42.340806; -3.704472Coordinates: 42°20′26.9″N 3°42′16.1″W / 42.340806°N 3.704472°W / 42.340806; -3.704472
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Year consecrated 1260
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Metropolitan cathedral
Heritage designation 1885, 1984
Website www.catedraldeburgos.es
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Gothic
Groundbreaking 1221
Official name: Burgos Cathedral
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, vi
Designated 1984 (8th session)
Reference no. 316
State Party  Spain
Region Europe and North America
Official name: Catedral de Santa María
Type Non-movable
Criteria Monument
Designated April 8, 1885[1]
Reference no. RI-51-0000048

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos (Spanish: Catedral de Santa María de Burgos) is a Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in the Spanish city of Burgos. Its official name is Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos. Its construction began in 1221, following French Gothic patterns . Had major changes in the 15th and 16th centuries: the spiers of the main facade, the Chapel of the Constable and dome of the cruise, elements of the advanced Gothic which give the temple its unmistakable profile. The last works of importance (the Sacristy or the Chapel of Saint Thecla) already belong to the 18th century, century in which were also modified the Gothic portals of the main facade. The style of the cathedral is the Gothic, although it has, in its interior, several decorative Renaissance and Baroque elements. The construction and renovations were made with limestone extracted from the quarrys of the nearby town of Hontoria de la Cantera.

In the cathedral are preserved works of extraordinary artists, such as architects and sculptors of the Colonia family (Juan, Simón and Francisco), the architect Juan de Vallejo, sculptors Gil de Siloé, Felipe Bigarny, Rodrigo de la Haya, Martín de la Haya, Juan de Ancheta and Juan Pascual de Mena, the sculptor and architect Diego de Siloé, the fencer Cristóbal de Andino, the glazier Arnao de Flandes or painters Alonso de Sedano, Mateo Cerezo, Sebastiano del Piombo or Juan Ricci, among others.

The design of the main facade is related to the purest French Gothic style of the great cathedrals of Paris and Reims, while the interior elevation as a reference to Bourges Cathedral. It consists of three bodies topped by two lateral square towers. The squelettes of Germanic influence were added in the 15th century and are the work of Juan de Colonia. In the outside are outstanding also covers del Sarmental and la Coronería, 13th century Gothics, and the cover de la Pellejería of 16th century Plateresques-Renaissance influences.

There are numerous architectural, sculptural and pictorial treasures inside. Highlights include:

  • The Gothic-Plateresque dome, raised by Juan de Colonia in the 15th century.[2]
  • The Chapel del Constable, of Isabelline Gothic style, which worked the Colonia family, Diego de Siloé and Felipe Bigarny.
  • The Spanish-Flemish Gothic altarpiece by Gil de Siloé for the Chapel of Saint Anne.
  • The stalls of the choir Renaissance Plateresque work by Bigarny.
  • The late Gothic reliefs of the girola by Bigarny.
  • Numerous Gothic and Renaissance tombs.
  • The Renaissance Golden staircase by Diego de Siloé.
  • The Santísimo Cristo de Burgos, image of great devotional tradition.
  • The tomb of El Cid and his wife Doña Jimena, his letter of Down payment and his chest.
  • The Papamoscas, articulated statue that opens his mouth to give the chiming of the hours.

The cathedral was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on October 31, 1984. It is the only Spanish cathedral that has this distinction independently, without being joined to the historic center of a city (as in Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Ávila, Córdoba, Toledo, Alcalá de Henares or Cuenca) or in union with other buildings, as in Seville. It is similar in design to Brussels Cathedral.[citation needed]

History of the cathedral[edit]

Romanesque building of the 11th century[edit]

Burgos was converted into bishopric in 1075 by the king Alfonso VI of León and Castile "the Brave", who gave so a canonical continuity to the tradition episcopal diocese of the Oca, whose prelate already contained in 589 as signatory to the Third Council of Toledo in Visigothic times.

The monarch promoted the construction of a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary that its traces are not known, but it is supposed Romanesque and of the type of contemporary works (of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, of the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza of San Martín de Tours de Frómista or the Cathedral of Jaca). There is documentary evidence that the monarch donated for the great work the enclosure occupied by a royal palace that had belonged to his father Ferdinand I of León and a small church dedicated to Saint Mary and that was in construction.

In 1096 the works of this temple were finished, but soon became too small for the needs of a city that was the symbolic capital of the kingdom, a powerful bishopric (the cathedral chapter had more than thirty members already before 1200) and an increasingly dynamic business center. The decision to build a new cathedral was begun finally took the 13th century. As was common at the time, the Romanesque building was destroyed (of which only some sculptural remains) and its site, expanded with the demolition of a neighboring houses donated by the Bishop Marino, it rose the new Gothic cathedral.


Current ground, year 2008, of the cathedral of Burgos begun in 1221.
  1. Portico del Sarmental.
  2. Transept, South arm.
  3. Door of the upper cloister.
  4. Chapel of the Visitation.
  5. Chapel of Saint Henry.
  6. Capilla de Saint John of Sahagún.
  7. Chapel of the Relics.
  8. Chapel of the Presentation.
  9. Chapel of the Santísimo Cristo de Burgos.
  10. Central nave and Papamoscas.
  11. Chapel of Saint Thecla.
  12. Chaple of Saint Anne or of the Conception.
  13. Transept, North arm and Golden staircase.
  14. Chaple of Saint Nicholas.
  15. Cruise, Dome, Grave of El Cid and Doña Jimena.
  16. Chapel and Altarpiece.
  17. Central nave, Choir.
  18. Chapel of the Nativity.
  19. Chapel of the Annunciation.
  20. Chapel of Saint Gregory.
  21. Aisles, Ambulatory and Girola.
  22. Chapel of the Constable.
  23. Sacristy.
  24. High cloister.
  25. Cloistered chapel of Saint Jerome.
  26. Chapel of the Corpus Christi.
  27. Chapterhouse.
  28. Chapel of Saint Catherine.
  29. Chapel of Saint John the Baptist and Saint James.
  30. Narthex, Door of Saint Mary.
  31. Door of the Coronería.
  32. Door of the Pellejería.
  33. Low cloister.

Gothic foundation and works in the 13th and 14th centuries[edit]

Overview from the north (left to right): Condastable Chapel, the Octagonal tower and the two western Flamboyant spires

The first stone of the new cathedral was placed on Jule 20 of 1221 in the presence of the promoters of the temple: the king Ferdinand III of Castile "the Saint" and Bishop Mauricio, bishop of the Burgalese diocese since 1213. Presumably, the first master builder was an anonymous French architect -although some researchers give the name of the canon Johan de Champagne, cited documentary in 1227-, most likely brought to Burgos by bishop Mauricio itself, after the trip he had made by France and Germany to arrange the marriage of the monarch with Elisabeth of Swabia, bridal ceremony that held precisely in the old Romanesque cathedral.

The construction of the cathedral, located just at the point where begins to rear it the hillside chaired by the Castle of Burgos, was initiated by the head and the presbytery, place it where was buried the founding bishop, whose remains were later transferred to the center of the capitulate choir. By 1240 assumed the direction of the works the called Master Enrique, which would be a responsible for the erection of the Cathedral of León and was inspired definitely by the Cathedral of Reims, whose facade the gable of the Cathedral of Burgos keeps great similarities. The work progressed very quickly and for 1238, year of the death of the founder prelate, buried in the chancel, were already almost completed the head and much of the cruise and the naves. The consecration of the temple took place in 1260, but has divine office holding it from 1230.

Between the second half of the 13th century and early 14th century the chapels of the aisles were completed and a new cloister was built. Master Enrique died in 1277 and was succeeded by Master Johan Pérez. Stonemasons were later Aparicio Pérez, active in 1327, Pedro Sánchez de Molina and Martín Fernández, who died in 1396 and 1418 respectively.

Expansions and reforms in the 15th to 18th centuries[edit]

In the 15th century the Colonia family incorporated the spiers of the main facade, the dome over the transept and the Chapel of the Constables. In the 16th century, besides the modifications to several chapels, highlights the construction of a new dome by Juan de Vallejo, who replaced the Juan de Colonia (sunk after a hurricane). In the 18th century were made the Chapel of Saint Thecla, the Chapel of the Relics and the Sacristy.

Among the most famous of the bishops of Burgos was the 15th-century scholar and historian Alphonsus a Sancta Maria.

Restorations of the 19th and 20th centuries[edit]

Burgos Cathedral owes its many works of art of the 13th to 18th centuries, especially the fact that during the 19th and 20th centuries no undertake decisive any restoration.

Outside the scope of the new cloister only was essential way reformed, after 1800, the chapel of the Santo Cristo or of Our Lady of the Remedies, located in the west of the old cloister. The renovation began with the transfer of the highly revered crucifix of the Holy Christ from the Convento de San Agustín to the chapel, thereafter, was called chapel of the Santo Cristo de Burgos. In the 1890s Vicente Lampérez y Romea, master architect of the cathedral from 1887, undertook an extensive restoration of this chapel, removing the plaster added of the walls and vaults and completely renovated the cover that gives the nave. also date from this restoration the neo-Gothic tracery windows, the blind arcades of the walls and most of the remaining architectural elements.

Between 1899 and 1911 Lampérez also restored the called New cloister, getting essentially recover its original shape. In the cloister it had overbuilt a third level with small Baroque windows that this architect did eliminate, and, incidentally, he opened the original windows of the cloister that had been almost closed. The installation of ornamental windows following models and old techniques, represented the end of the restoration. While the upper body of the cloister hardly experienced any change, the lower cloister was remarkably restored. The forms of its rib, apparently late Gothic, are due to Lampérez. Before the restoration, the lower cloister was divided into several compartments and generally in poor state of conservation. It is likely that during the restoration of the cloister was removed the stairwell that had subsequently been added, situated in the inner southwest corner of the same cloister. Subsequently, the connection between the two levels of the cloister only is established through a wooden staircase beneath the chapel of Saint Jerome.

The most recent restoration of the cathedral, by architect Marcos Rico Santamaría, has replaced the roof by a light steel framing. Regarding the rib star freely suspended in the center tower of the transept, it has laid a glass surface that achieves the complete enlightenment of the fabric of the rib. Regardless of such measures, there have been few the recent attempts to modify the architectural and sculptural substance of the cathedral. On August 12, 1994, a statue of Saint Lawrence came off from the final stretch of the north tower of the main facade, which made public the immediate need to resume the protection and conservation measures of the monument.

Finally, are noteworthy other contemporary interventions, without seeking any modification of the monument, have significantly contributed to the enhancement of the cathedral, as has been the elimination in the early 20th century of some buildings that had been attached to the temple, as the Archbishop's Palace.

Exterior building[edit]

Facade of Saint Mary[edit]

Facade of Saint Mary with surrounding.
Facade of Saint Mary.

When descending the stairs down to the Plaza de Santa María it can see the western facade of the temple, inspired by the cathedrals of Paris and Reims.

In the lower body opens the Portal of Saint Mary formed by three pointed arches flared sheltering the Royal Door, or of Forgiveness, the central, and of the Assumption and the Immaculate, the sides. This portal was work of the 13th century and, with its iconography dedicated to the Virgin, it was considered the most important sculptural manifestation of Gothic in Castile, but its serious deterioration forced austerely rebuild the side doors, in 1663 by Juan de Pobes, and the central, in Neoclassical style, with lintels vain and triangular pediment, in 1790; in the thympanums of the sides were placed the reliefs of the Conception and the Coronation, sticking out of the hand of Juan de Pobes, and in the spandrels, two doubles side arches that shelter respective statuettes.

Facade of the illuminated cathedral.

The second body of the central street of the facade is work of the 13th century and in it a rosette of Cistercian air is opened, with tracery of six-pointed star, or of Solomon's seal. In the third body in the same street it opens an elegant gallery marked by respectives spires and several pinnacles, and consists of two large windows with mullions and tracery of three quadrilobed; under the eight arches that form the mullions of both arches are placed the statues of the first eight kings of Castile from Ferdinand I of León "the Magnus" to Ferdinand III of Castile "the Saint". Crown the street a thin rail-cresting of pointed arches on which stands a statue of the Virgin and Child, accompanied by the legend, alluding to the Mother of Christ, Pulchra es et decora. This shot was made in the mid-15th century by Juan de Colonia.

On the side doors of the first body are raised two almost twins towers of the 13th century and of three bodies, with pilasters decorated with pinnacles and statues at its corners, and with decorated openings pointed on each side of each body: one flared with mullion and tracery of oculus, covered with stained glasses, in the first; two geminates without mullion without tracery, in the second; and two other geminates with mullion and tracery, in the third.

View from the Paseo del Espolón.

On these towers, to the mid-15th century, Juan de Colonia raised respectives pyramidal needles or spires of octagonal base and of fine fretwork that definitely shaped the silhouette of the Burgalesa cathedral. Its Suevigermanian progeny matches the project of the Cologne Cathedral, which could know the master Juan, while the spires of the German city not were made until the 19th century. The Burgalese spiers were raised with the financial contributions of the bishop Alonso de Cartagena and of his successor at headquarters, Luis de Acuña, whose coats of arms, along with the Castilian-Leonese monarchy, appear in the parapets that connect to the tops of the towers. In these parapets master Juan also had the legend pax vobis and the sculpture of Christ showing the footsteps of his Passion, in one, and the legend ecce agnus dei and a sculpture of Saint John the Bapstist, in the other.

Punctuate the set of the facade two polygonal turrets, decorated with lobed arches, with statues and pinnacles and topped in pyramidal spiers amounting to the start of the spiers; inside host respectives spiral staircases ascending to the clerestory and the vaults of the naves.

Facade and Door of the Sarmental[edit]

Door del Sarmental (13th century).

Less known as Sacramental Door, this door, opened in the southern transept and looking out to the Plaza del Rey San Fernando, which is accessed saving a steep staircase, was built approximately 1230 and 1240. This is one of the best Classicism Gothic sculptural set of the 13th century in Spain. It is dedicated to the archaic theme of Christ in Majesty, but using an innovative plastic.

The central element and artistically most refined is the tympanum, whose execution is attributed to a French artist referred to as the Master of the Beau Dieu of Amiens. What is certain is the influence of the sculpture of the Cathedral of Amiens in the masterly Burgalese door. In this almost triangular space representing to seated Jesus as Pantocrator showing the Book of the Law and, surrounding him, the Four Evangelists, in its case double way represented: iconically, themselves bent over their desks writing the Gospels, and symbolically, by the Tetramorph. Below, separated by a lintel, appears a full Apostolate in a seated pose, attributed to another French artist known as the Master of the Sarmental. The tympanum is surrounded by three archivolts occupying the 24 elders of the Apocalypse, playing or tuning medieval musical instruments, several choirs of angels and an allegory of the Arts. This iconographic set had to be carved by local sculptors led by the French masters.

Facade of the Sarmental.

The door is divided by a mullion in which it appears, covered by a canopy on which effigy the Lamb, which could also be carved by Master of the Sarmental) representing a bishop; is tradition identify the portrayed as D. Mauricio, although it may well be of D. Asterio or Saint Indaletius, first bishop of Almería, martyr and Christianizator of the province of Burgos. In the side jambs are carved six figures, after the rest of the portal, four of which represent Moses, Aaron, Saint Peter and Paul the Apostle; the other two are not easily identifiable.

Although the portal concentrates all the interest, it can not be ignored the rest of the gable, escorting robust buttresses topped with pinnacles. It's later work, of the late-13th century. Its two upper sections, structured along the lines of the central body of the facade of Saint Mary, are occupied by a rosette and on it a set of open gallery with three arches with soffits openwork with triple quatrefoil and supported by mullions against the looming one statuary interpreted as the Divine Liturgy, which Christ administers the Eucharist flanked by twelve angels cerifers and thurifers.

Currently, tourist visits access the Cathedral by the Door of the Sarmental.

Facade and Door of the Coronería[edit]

Door of the Coronería (13th century).

In the gable of the north transept, at the height of the calle Fernán González but at a level several meters higher than the floor of the temple, opens the Door of the Coronería, or Door of the Apostles, which from inside the Cathedral communicates with the nave through the Golden Staircase by Diego de Siloé. It is work done between 1250 and 1257 by local artists from the circle of master Enrique, sometimes called master of the Coronería. Fully Gothic, part of the sculptural themes however prolong the Romanesque tradition. In addition, the environment of the door was renovated in the 18th century, in 1786, with a semicircular arch of large voussoirs and of Baroque style, which replaced a Gothic mullion in which would be represented the figure of God the Father. Shortly undertake the remodeling, the Council decided to close this door by the excessive and annoying traffic of neighbors who descended into the lower part of the city with supplies and utensils. Thus ended another movement of people, this pious, since through the Coronería had access to the Cathedral the pilgrims that followed the Camino de Santiago.

Guide base of the facade of the Coronería.

Below and above the jambs, and extending through the surrounding wall, forming friezes, blind respectives series of ogival and trefoil pointed arches, that in the lower socket mounted on paired columns with vegetable capitals. This blind gallery of trefoils and columns underlies a complete Apostolate, consisting of statues in the round and almost life-size. Six are shown on each side, attached to the wall and separated by the jambs.

The three archivolts are garrisoned by reliefs of seraphims on the inside, thurifer angels in the middle, and scenes of the resurrection of the deads on the outside. The tympanum, divided into two parts, representing the Last Judgment. On the lintel justly above the door appears a long scene in relief chaired by Archangel Michael with a scale weighing the souls; around him, to the left, a demons trying to unlevel in their favor the weight of the sins as well as those convicted who are driven to Hell, and, to the right, a little house with the open door representing the entrance to paradise, where are already a nobles, a king, a queen, a monk with hood and a Franciscan monk, the blessed. This motif of psicostasis is an iconographic heritage of the Romanesque art. At the top of the tympanum appears another motif common to the Romanesque, the Deesis, with Christ enthroned as universal judge, with arms raised, showing the wounded of the side and flanked by the Virgin and St. John imploring mercy for souls of the poor. At the apex of the tympanum, on a clouds, an angels bearing the insignia of the Passion. The attempts at drama and grimacing expression that show various images of this facade away of the full French classicism and put in relation to a more naturalistic trend of clear Hispanic flavor.

It considers this facade akin to the Judgment of the western facade of the Cathedral of León and the iconographic theme of the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres, although its most obvious reference is the neighbor Door of the Sarmental, whose perfect balance, however, can not achieve.

The facade of the portal of the Coronería extends upwards with a large window of stepped triple bow and on it, needles by respectives marked spires, a gallery of three ogival arches, with mullions and tracery of three quadrilobulates circles. Attached to the mullions are twelve crowned statues alluding to the Castilian royalty and, attached to the spandrels of the arches, thurifer angels. Following seen on the facade of the Sarmental, the gable of the Coronería ends at the top with a handrail formed by arches.


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