The casco histórico is totally dominated by the Catedral, one of the most extraordinary achievements of Gothic art. Its spires can be seen above the rooftops from all over town, and it’s an essential first stop in Burgos. The cathedral has emerged from a lengthy period of restoration, looking cleaner than it has for centuries, though visiting it has been reduced to something of a production line, with a separate visitor centre, well-stocked gift-shop and one-way flow inside to keep tourists from worshippers.
Moorish influences can be seen in the cathedral’s central dome (1568), supported on four thick piers that fan out into remarkably delicate buttresses – a worthy setting for the tomb of El Cid and his wife Jimena, marked by a simple slab of pink veined marble in the floor below. Otherwise, perhaps the most striking thing about the vast interior is the size and number of its side chapels, with the octagonal Capilla del Condestable, behind the high altar, possibly the most splendid of all, featuring a ceiling designed to form two concentric eight-pointed stars. In the Capilla de Santa Ana, the magnificent retablo is by Gil de Siloé, a Flanders-born craftsman whose son Diego crafted the adjacent double stairway, the glorious Escalera Dorada.
Cloisters and Museo Catedralicio
The tourist route through the church leads out of the main body of the cathedral and into the spacious two-storey cloisters, and beyond this to a series of chapels that house the Museo Catedralicio, with its collection of religious treasures and two El Cid mementoes, namely his marriage contract and a wooden trunk. The light-filled lower cloister also has an audio-visual history of the church and its architecture, including a look at the various restoration projects.
It’s a miracle
It’s a miracle
The most highly venerated place of worship inside the cathedral is the Capilla del Santísimo Cristo de Burgos, which contains a cloyingly realistic image of Christ (c.1300), endowed with real human hair and nails and covered with the withered hide of a water buffalo, still popularly believed to be human skin. Legend has it that the icon was modelled directly from the scene at the Crucifixion and that – miracle of miracles – it requires a shave and a manicure every eighth day. The chapel, however, is closed to anyone clutching a cathedral visitor’s ticket – worshippers enter instead via the Puerta de Santa María outside.