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The splendor of the cathedral of Burgos (Burgos, Spain)
It is often said that architecture is a frozen music. This is confirmed by the stone “symphonies” which have reached us from the Middle Ages in the form of unique theological buildings, such as the Cathedral of Burgos (Spain), Amiens, Lanais, Chartres, Bourges and Beauvais (France). In addition, they are perfect architectural works of high Gothic art.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Burgos. Burgos, Spain.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Burgos is located in the Spanish province of the same name. It is one of the three Catholic architectural pearls of Spain and a pilgrimage place not only for the faithful Catholics, but also for specialists in the history of medieval architecture and just tourists from all over the world. More than thirty years ago, the cathedral was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by the international cultural organization UNESCO.
Burgos Cathedral. Panorama
A brief historical chronicle
In the Middle Ages Spain was not yet a state on the Iberian Peninsula. But the historical region of the Pyrenees, Castile, was dominated by the Basque people. They were the only ones who retained their entire identity, albeit archaic, both socially and economically. In other words, the Basques did not undergo Romanization – the territory’s de facto dependence on the Roman Empire.
The Basques were for four hundred years the main driving force in the so-called Reconquista, the armed expulsion by the Northern Iberian Christians of the Muslim nationalities – the Moors and others – who had dominated the area since the 8th century. The Reconquista is also called the Pyrenean Crusades. Even then, the Basques began to build Catholic churches, temples, and cathedrals, including the one in Burgos named after the Virgin Mary.
Elements of the Cathedral of Burgos
At the same time, they fenced off their land from other hostile tribes in the south of the peninsula with powerful fortifications. Hence the name of the area – Castile (fortress). Castile was a region of the Kingdom of Leon, but in the 11th century it became an independent state with its capital in Burgos. The Basques gradually achieved a united Spain in 1516. Their language, Castellano, became a common Spanish language.
The pride of Castile and all of Spain
The construction of the Cathedral in Burgos began at the beginning of the 13th century. After the construction was silent for several hundred years and was only completed at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century.
The Cathedral of Burgos (on the photo) is seen from a bird’s-eye view in the shape of a Catholic cross.
Satellite view of Burgos Cathedral
Originally three families of Spanish architects of the Colón family worked on the cathedral Juan, Simon, a total of eight talented architects of the Middle Ages. That is why the main facade of the Burgos cathedral resembles the French models. The soaring steep spires are closer to German architectural culture.
But the gigantic arcade of Burgos cathedral – a system of alternating arches of the same size – is an invention of Spanish Gothic architects. The windows in the form of several spheres firmly fastened together were also used in the construction of the Burgos cathedral.
Sculptural compositions of Burgos Cathedral
The fact is that in the narrow spaces of the temples the traditional windows deteriorated the strength of the structure.
Some facades of the cathedral have been modified over time, but the southern one is still in its original form: Christ is sculptured surrounded by twelve apostles and angels. In one part of the cathedral there is a necropolis where the governor of the province and members of his family are buried. The Basque hero Cid Compeador and his wife Dona Jimena are also buried here.
Under the dome of the Cathedral of Burgos
The central facade of the cathedral from below begins with three lancet arches, one with an entrance. Above are statues of the kings of Spain. Above them is a magnificent statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child. Architecturally this façade is completed by two pointed towers with spires.
The cathedral, both inside and out, is a complex of sights that, if carefully, would not be seen in a day.
The Golden Staircase at Burgos Cathedral
One interesting sight repeated in the tourist brochures is: “the fly statues.” So nicknamed by the witty Burgossians for the fact that the statues’ mouths open in time with the bells. Tourists do not pass by the Romanesque tomb of Mudarra (from a former building) and the crypt of Bishop Maurizio.
The Cathedral of Burgos is still active today. Therefore, the area for tourists is separated from the area for the faithful.
Burgos in Spain – what the city can interest tourists
The cute city of Burgos (Spain), relating to the province of the same name, is located 245 km north of Madrid. In terms of number of inhabitants, Burgos ranks 37th in Spain: with an area of 107.08 km², it is home to about 180,000 people.
It is situated on an 800-meter-high hill, at the foot of which lie the beautiful Castilian plains. The Arlanson River runs through the city and divides it into two parts.
Modern Burgos offers its guests everything you need to feel the fullness of life: shops for every taste and affluence, delicious food and wine, a vibrant and lively nightlife, green boulevards, a beautiful beach on the river Arlanson, the atmosphere of the medieval old town.
Attractions in the northern part of Burgos
On the right bank of the Arlanson River, Burgos has the Old Town with its many attractions.
The historic center of Burgos boasts some of the city’s most beautiful squares:
- Plaza del Mio Sid with a monument to the knight Sid Compador;
- Plaza del Rev San Fernando;
- Plaza Mayor is a typical Spanish square with square-shaped buildings surrounded by arcaded houses;
- Plaza Libertad, known for the historic Casa del Cordón mansion;
- Plaza Lesmes and the ancient monastery of Bernardos;
- Plaza Santa Maria, in the 15th century, laid out on the site of an ancient cemetery.
There is also an ancient boulevard promenade Paseo del Espolon in the historical part of Burgos, where the locals like to relax. Boulevard Espolon stretches along the river for only 300 meters, but here you can see the beautiful buildings of different eras, statues and fountains, a musical gazebo, curly-trimmed trees and lots of flowerbeds.
And the best way to get acquainted with all the sights of the Old Town is to start from the bridge of Santa Maria, which is spanned across the river Arlanson.
At the exit of Santa Maria Bridge there is a gate of the same name. In the fourteenth century they were built into the ancient fortress wall, of which nothing remains today.
The gate is a large stone tower with an arched passage. Its main facade is decorated with sculptures of famous people from Burgos and Spain, as well as statues of the Virgin Mary and the guardian angel of the city.
The inner rooms of the gate towers are now used as exhibition halls. The most interesting ones are the Mudejar-decorated Main Hall and the octagonal Equality Hall. One of the rooms is home to the Pharmacy Museum, with its main exhibit being old pharmacy supplies.
On the other side of the Santa Maria Gate stretches Plaza Santa Maria. Turning its main facade to this square and to the famous gate, stands the iconic landmark of Burgos and all of Spain – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Burgos.
The cathedral is recognized as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture in Spain. The building has the form of a Latin cross, its length reaches 84 m, and width – 59 m.
Interesting fact! Burgos Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Spain after those of Seville and Toledo.
The main facade is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is more convenient to view it from the top down. In the central part of the arcade, between the towers, is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Below are the sculptural images of the 8 kings of Castile, below them is a huge rose window with the hexagonal Star of David in the center. In the lower tier 3 arched arches are arranged. The central arch is the main entrance to the building, which opens only to members of the royal families, while the more modest side doors serve as an entrance for the ordinary faithful.
The north façade of the cathedral is dedicated to the apostles. In the center, above the entrance doors, are scenes of the Last Judgment.
The lowered Renaissance aspirations, decorated with heraldic symbols of the noble families of Velasco and Mendoza, adjoin the main building on the east side. Scenes from the life of John the Baptist can also be seen here. Above the eastern doors, at a height of 15 m, is a very unusual decoration for any cathedral: a clock with a moving figurine of Papamosque (The Prostitute).
The oldest (1230) as well as the most beautiful and interesting facade of the cathedral is the southern one, facing Plaza del Rev San Fernando (San Fernando Square). The Gothic statues adorning the facade serve to depict the “Divine Liturgy. Here, on the south side of the cathedral, are the ticket offices: to see the main religious attraction of Burgos inside, you have to buy a ticket and then climb the stairs to the south portal.
Interesting fact! In 2012, Spain issued a commemorative 2 € coin depicting the Burgos Cathedral. The coin’s circulation was 8,000,000 copies.
Inside the Cathedral of Our Lady is divided into 3 spacious naves. There is a lot of light and air in the building, everything looks light and elegant. The interior of the cathedral is rich and grandiose: a lot of gilding, luxurious stone carving, statues and altars. The main altar is decorated with a Gothic image of Santa Maria la Mayor. At the north entrance is the sumptuous Renaissance Gilded Staircase of Diego de Siloe, made of white and cream marble with gilded iron railings. The railings of the choir are decorated with carvings on the theme of biblical scenes, and in front of the choir is the burial of Sid Campeador and his wife Jimena.
Synopsis. Cid Campeador is a famous Spanish national hero who was born in Burgos.
Address: Plaza Santa Maria s/n, 09003 Burgos, Spain.
The Cathedral in Burgos works according to the following schedule:
- March 19 to October 31: from 09:30 to 19:30;
- From November 1 to March 18: from 10:00 to 19:00;
- The last entrance is possible 1 hour before closing time;
- on Tuesdays is always closed from 16:00 to 16:30.
The cathedral may also be closed to tourists on public holidays, information is always available on the website http://catedraldeburgos.es
Children up to 7 years of age are admitted free of charge. On Tuesdays from 16:30 to 18:30 in summer time and until 18:00 in winter time free admission for absolutely everyone. Other times admission for tourists is ticketed:
- for adults – 7 €;
- For pensioners over 65 years old – 6 €;
- For the unemployed, students up to 28 years old – 4,50 €;
- For children 7-14 years old and handicapped: 2 €.
You can get an audio guide in Spanish or English with your ticket.
Interesting fact! Along the river Arlanson, the path of St. James has long been the name of the road to Santiago de Compostela, where St. James is buried. Pilgrims going there make an obligatory stop in Burgos to visit the Cathedral.
The church of San Nicolas de Bari is behind the Cathedral of Burgos and is reached by climbing the wide staircase that runs to the left of the cathedral (when facing it).
The small, outwardly very modest stone church of St. Nicholas strikes by its internal proportionality and harmony. Its main value and attraction is the majestic stone altar in the form of a book narrating the life of St. Nicholas. The altar is so skillfully and openwork carved that it seems incredibly light and graceful.
Tip: If you drop a 1 € coin into the hole in the altar, it turns on a very beautiful lighting.
Address of the Church of St. Nicholas: Calle de Fernan Gonzales, 09003 Burgos, Spain.
The Castillo de Burgos, or rather the ruins that remain of it, are located at the top of the hill of San Miguel. It is better to get to this place on foot. The ascent takes 25-30 minutes and is very scenic. The way starts from the cathedral, up the same stairs: firstly along Calle Fernan Gonzales, then along the steps in the park to the observation deck, and then along the path to the top of the hill.
The castle, built in 884, was for a long time one of the strongest defenses. It was then used both as a royal residence and as a prison, and was destroyed during the civil war in the 1930s.
The landmark that is now available for viewing is more striking for its medieval Spanish spirit and its well-maintained appearance. From the watchtower, from a height of 75 meters above the city, you have the best views of Burgos and the cathedral.
There is a small museum in the Castillo, where behind the ropes are the intact ruins of the ancient walls, copies of items found here. The organization is striking: no staff, only an announcer in Spanish talks about the past of the place.
The most impressive part of the ancient castle of Burgos are the underground tunnels and a well 61.5 m deep. You can see these sights during the tour, which are held every day, beginning at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:30, 16:15.
Castillo de Burgos is open to the public daily from 9:45 to 16:30.
Entrance to the site, a visit to the museum and a guided tour of the dungeon are all free.
Address: Cerro de San Miguel, s/n, 09004 Burgos, Spain.
Attractions on the left bank of Burgos: Monastery of Las Huegas
On the left coast there are mostly new neighborhoods. Although there are attractions of Burgos that are known in Spain and beyond. For example, the Cistercian convent of Santa Maria la Real de Huelgas. It is famous for being the place where the kings of Castile and Leon were crowned, ordained, knighted, married and buried. The monastery, founded in the XII century, is still active, but it is open to visitors.
A special attraction is the church with a magnificent gilded altar and a pantheon with burials of Castilian kings. In the chapel of Capilla de Santia there is a wooden statue of St. James with a sword used in the initiation rites of the Order of Santiago. The Gallery of St. Ferdinand is now occupied by the Fabric Museum, which displays the garments of kings, as well as a collection of paintings, tapestries, and historical relics.
Entrance to Las Huegas is free – you can go in and see the outside of all the structures and walk around the cozy courtyard. But you can only go inside as part of a guided, paid tour.
Important: Tours are conducted only in Spanish. It is not allowed to take photos, a security guard walks behind the group and monitors it.
Address: Plaza Compás, s/n, 09001 Burgos, Spain.
Access to the grounds is possible:
- Sunday – 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m;
- Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, lunch break 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Nearby sights: Miraflores Monastery of the Carthusians
The monastery dedicated to the Holy Virgin of Miraflores is located on a hill in the Fuentes Blancas Park – this is outside the city, 4 kilometers east of the center of Burgos. Since public transportation doesn’t go there, you either have to take a cab or walk. Although the road goes through a nice area along the Arlanson River, it is long and tiring to walk, especially in the heat.
Cartuja de Miraflores is a 15th century monastery complex with many buildings. It was originally a hunting royal palace, but Juan II gave it to the Carthusian monastic order. Since the monastery is active, tourists are only allowed into the church.
The church is a beautiful example of late Gothic. Inside, everything is incredibly luxurious, many of the interior items are historical landmarks:
- A painting of the Annunciation at the entrance;
- the altar by the sculptor Gil de Siloë; the first gold brought by Christopher Columbus from America was used to gild this altar;
- the famous statue of St. Bruno, who founded the Carthusian order;
- in the center of the nave is the tomb of Juan II and his wife Isabella of Portugal.
Admission to the monastic complex is free, visiting hours:
- Monday through Saturday from 10:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m;
- Sunday – from 11:00 to 15:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00.
Address: Pje. Fuentes Blancas s/n, 09002 Burgos, Spain.
Hotels in Burgos
Booking.com site offers in Burgos and its nearest surroundings more than 80 hotels of all categories: from comfortable hostels to 5* hotels. 3* hotels are attractive, because many of them are located in beautiful historical buildings near famous attractions. A good option is comfortable apartments within the city, as well as family pensions in the countryside, literally 5-10 minutes drive from Burgos.
Approximate cost per day of accommodation:
- In a hostel – from 30 € per person;
- in a double room in a 3* hotel – 45-55 €;
- In an apartment – 50-100 €.
How to get to Burgos
The advantageous location of Burgos has made it an important communications center for the northern part of Spain. It is not difficult to reach this city, as “all roads of Castile lead to Burgos”.
The most popular and convenient options are train and bus. Find suitable flights and buy tickets for any mode of transport between Burgos and other cities in Spain can be found on the website www.omio.ru.
The Burgos-Rosa de Lima train station is located 5 km from the city center, in the Villímar area, on Avenida Príncipe de Asturias s/n.
Since 2007 there are regular train connections between Burgos and the major Spanish cities. There are regular high-speed trains from:
- Bilbao (travel time 3 hours, ticket costs 18 €);
- Salamanca (travel time 2,5 hours, ticket costs 20 €);
- Leon (travel time 2 hours and cost 18€);
- Valladolidol (slightly longer than 1 hour, ticket costs 8€);
- Madrid (journey of 4 hours, cost 23 €).
There are also direct connections to Barcelona, Vigo, Endaya, San Sebastian, and Vitoria. There are trains to Paris and Lisbon through Burgos.
Travelling to Burgos by bus usually takes less time and costs less than by train.
The Burgos bus station is located next to the cathedral, on Calle Miranda nº4-6.
Bus routes connect Burgos to nearby cities in France and Portugal, to most cities in northern Spain and to Madrid. For example, in the Madrid-Burgos direction there are several daily flights, the trip lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes and the ticket costs 15€. Other popular destinations include Valladolid, Leon, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Pamplona.
All prices on the page are for November 2019.
Burgos (Spain) is a small city, to see all its sights and walk through the ancient streets is quite enough for a few days.
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