Burgos Cathedral (Catedral de Burgos)
The Burgos Cathedral, La Catedral de Burgos (or Catedral de Santa Maria) in Spanish, was founded in 1221 when King Ferdinand and the founding Bishop Mauricio laid the first stone of what would be Spain’s third largest cathedral, eclipsed only by those in Sevilla and Toledo. The old Romanesque cathedral had been leveled and the new one would take three centuries and a slew of architects to embellish completely (in the early stages the prolific Gil de Siloe and his son Diego had a hand). While it is often the case in Spain that constructions spanning hundreds of years tend to pick up and or evolve from one style to the next (a Baroque façade with Gothic towers and a Mudéjar cloister, for example), the cathedral of Burgos emerged with the purest French Gothic sensibilities. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The twin towers poking up from the corners of the main façade were added in the 15th century and measure 84 meters (275 feet) high. Entrance is through the Puerta de Santa María below them. Just inside to the left is the papamoscas (fly-catcher), a weird figure/clock that marks the hours by swallowing invisible flies. The curiosities don’t stop here. To the right, the figure known as Christ the Saint of Burgos in the 14th-century Capilla de Santo Cristo is eerie enough, and just realistic enough, that church custodians prefer to tidy up its chapel during the day, when other people are around and all the lights are on. This crucifix figure of Jesus is a composite of animal and human parts and after seven centuries looks as if it could use a little nip and tuck. Left of the transept, the immaculate Golden Staircase built by Diego de Siloé in the 16th century rises from the nave to an exterior door, making for what would be a rather grand emergency exit.
The conspicuously marked tombs of El Cid and his wife Doña Jimenez lie below the elaborate 15th-century starred dome that casts light on the transept. The ostentation of these tombs is surpassed only by those of Don Pedro Fernández, the once enormously influential High Constable of Castile, who lies entombed alongside his wife in the garishly ornate Capilla de los Condestables just beyond the ambulatory. The Museo Catedralico is spaced around the 13th-century cloister with Flemish paintings on display, various El Cid regalia including his marriage papers and a priceless Visigothic bible.
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