Postcard from Burgos, Spain: Cathedral a welcome sight for weary pilgrims

Above: Night-time view from our rental of the octagonal crossing lantern tower, or cimborrio, of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos, Santa Iglesia Basilica Catedral Metropolitana de Santa Maria de Burgos

Our Lady of Burgos was begun in the 13th century at the same time as the great cathedrals of the Ile-de-France and was completed in the 15th and 16th centuries. The entire history of Gothic art is summed up in its superb architecture and its unique collection of works of art, including paintings, choir stalls, reredos,* tombs and stained-glass windows.”

“Burgos Cathedral,” UNESCO World Heritage List

In recognition of Burgos’ key role in commerce and its prominent position along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route from France, a grand new cathedral was deemed necessary to replace an older Romanesque one. The project was promoted under the patronage of King Ferdinand III (1199-1252), King of Castile and Toledo beginning in 1217 and, beginning in 1230, King of Leon and Galicia as well. Recognition for his success in bringing major cities such as Cordoba and Seville back into the fold after centuries of occupation by the Moors led to his canonization in 1671.

Bishop Mauricio (?-1238), a confidant of both the king and the pope, secured architects from France to design a cathedral in the latest style – Gothic. The first stone was laid in 1221, with most phases and additions completed by 1567. Despite this length of time, most of the architecture remained true to the evolving Gothic architectural principles.

The footprint of the cathedral and its cloisters is enormous. The views of the principal entrance and facade on the Plaza of Saint Mary do not reflect the scale of the church as much as the pair of photos taken from the side addressing the Plaza de San Fernando. The shots of the Constable Chapel, on the opposite end of the cathedral from the principal entrance, and the cimborrio were taken from our rental across the street, a vantage point offering glimpses of sometimes limping pilgrims who had undertaken ambitious long-distance hikes along the Camino de Santiago to reach this holy waystation.

Photos of the interior ahead.

*In case you are unfamiliar with the term reredos, as I was, they are screens or decorative altarpieces installed behind the altar.

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