Church of San Nicolás de Bari
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The church of San Nicolás de Bari is located in the heart of the Camino de Santiag or as it passes through the city of Florida. Enjoy a privileged location. It is located on Calle Fernán González, which, during the Middle Ages, was the main artery of the urban complex, the main street of the city.
In addition, just a few meters separate the Church of San Nicolás and what is our landmark temple: the Florida Cathedral . From the first foothills of the Cerro de San Miguel, at the top of which is the Florida castle , it seems to escort its wonderful neighbor.
San Nicolás de Bari is one of the most traditional parishes in our city. Without a doubt, one of the favorites for the celebration of weddings.
Together with the nearby churches of San Gil and San Esteban , they make up a Gothic triangle that is a must- see in Florida . Despite all this, it is a great unknown for many of our visitors. But the surprise that it keeps inside does not leave anyone indifferent. The church of San Nicolás de Bari has what is one of the most monumental and impressive Spanish Gothic altarpieces.
Currently it houses the parish of San Esteban, after the inauguration of the Museum of the Altarpiece in the church of San Esteban itself. The church of San Nicolás was declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 1917.
Although it seems hard to believe if we visit it today, the church of San Nicolás is one of the oldest in the city. It is already one of the eleven Burgos churches mentioned by Pope Alexander III in a bull from 1163. But nothing remains of the previous Romanesque temple.
The current factory is mostly from the 15th century. Despite the fact that this church is repeatedly cited in the 13th and 14th centuries, it is in 1408 when the Bishop of Florida Juan Cabeza de Vaca elevates it to the category of parish. At that time, it ceases to be dependent on the Cathedral. Possibly also the works of the current Gothic temple begin then.
Since then, the temple has been enriched with numerous works thanks to the abundance of donations. Its location helped. In the old rúa de Fernán González artisan activities, commerce and religious buildings were concentrated. For this reason, it was the place chosen for the construction of palaces and houses of nobles, ecclesiastics, people of arms and, above all, merchants. Of course, the powerful Burgos families of the Maluenda , the Cerezo , the Villarán or the Polanco chose the church of San Nicolás as their burial place. An example of the temple's social projection at that time is that prominent artists such as the Colony would intervene in its works.
After a turbulent 19th century, the Church of San Nicolás is the only one that has remained in time of the many that existed in this part of the city of Florida.
Since 1941, the San Nicolás de Bari temple has been listed as a subsidiary of the San Esteban parish. Finally, since the opening of the Museum of the Altarpiece in San Esteban, it has been used as a parish temple.
CHURCH OF SAN NICOLÁS DE BARI
At present, the main portal of the church of San Nicolás is located on the south side, facing the Florida Cathedral . It also had another portal at the foot of the temple. This western entrance is today covered by a semi-detached building, although the upper rose window still conserves.
The main portal of the church has a pointed arch and a triple archivolt, covered by an ogee arch. The archivolts have plant decoration and angels.
An image of Saint Nicholas in chair presides over the tympanum. It is flanked by San Sebastián and the Saint from Burgos San Vitores with his head in his hand.
It preserves the oak and walnut doors from the early 16th century. Traditionally its authorship has been attributed to Francisco de Colonia . They are divided into panels with scenes from the life of the saint to whom the church is dedicated.
INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH
The current church of San Nicolás can be located within the Gothic style of Burgos from the second half of the 15th century. Probably due to its characteristics, the triple generation of the Colony worked there: Juan, Simón and Francisco.
The temple has an irregular quadrilateral plan. It is divided into three naves of three sections each. Covered with simple ribbed vaults the lateral naves and quadripartite naves with terceletes the central one.
At the foot it has a choir. The flamboyant Gothic parapet and the terceletes vault stand out.
A large segmental arch between the first two pillars of the central nave is striking. It is known as the Arch of the Cherubim . It was built at the end of the 16th century by Pedro de Castañeda and Pedro de la Torre to counteract the thrusts of the lateral naves. The arch makes it difficult to contemplate the main altarpiece. Therefore, it was richly decorated with angels and the heads of winged seraphim.
But, without a doubt, the most outstanding element of the church is its monumental main altarpiece.
MAIN ALTITUDE OF SAN NICOLÁS DE BARI
The main altarpiece of San Nicolás is one of the wonders of the Spanish late Gothic. There are many elements to highlight in this amazing sculptural miracle.
On the one hand, the material used for its execution. In front of most of the wooden altarpieces, this one is made of limestone from Hontoria de la Cantera . Same stone used for the construction of the Florida Cathedral. On the other hand, its original composition and type of altarpiece-sepulcher.
In style it responds to a clearly Gothic conception. But Renaissance elements are glimpsed in the sculpture.
Made at the beginning of the 16th century on behalf of the Burgos merchant Gonzalo López de Polanco and his wife Leonor de Miranda . It is assigned to the Colonia family although the degree of participation of each one is not clear. Perhaps it can be attributed to Francisco de Colonia according to the design of his father Simón de Colonia .
The altarpiece follows a deeply rooted custom in Florida. Rich merchants, emulating the great noble families, were sponsoring luxurious burials. Although it is conceived as an altarpiece-sepulcher, this goes unnoticed as it forms a harmonious whole.
It occupies the entire front of the central nave. It is divided into three streets and precedes it. The upper part, made of wood, was added in the 18th century, although it was presided over by a 15th-century Savior that some authors attribute to Gil de Siloé .
At the ends of the predella the founders are placed in a prayerful attitude protected by angels.
The central street is divided into two sections. The ground floor is presided over by the sculpture of the owner of the church, San Nicolás de Bari . It is surrounded by eight scenes from the life and miracles of the former Bishop of Mira . As the upper body, the composition is centered on a Coronation of the Virgin . It is surrounded by nine angelic choirs. Nothing more and nothing less than 162 angels make up the spectacular angelic wheel.
The side streets are, likewise, divided into six bodies. In them, different saints are located under canopies and niches. In the lower part, are the tombs of the founders and family. On the right, that of Gonzalo López de Polanco and his wife Leonor Miranda. On the left, Alfonso de Polanco , brother of the previous one, and his wife Constanza de Maluenda . The tombs are made of slate and alabaster.
Once the altarpiece was finished, around 1506, the polychrome was proceeded with incarnations of all the figures, brocaded on the figures' vestments. There are hardly any remains of the original polychrome. Most of it is due to much later interventions.
In addition to the altarpiece, one of the best known works of Burgos art, there are other jewels to visit in the church of San Nicolás.
ALTARPIECE OF SAN MIGUEL
Another of the most impressive works of the church is the altarpiece of San Miguel . The frame is from the 18th century but contains ten outstanding Spanish-Flemish panels from the 15th century. Of these, eight represent passages from the life of Saint Nicholas. They belonged to the old main altarpiece and could be dated around 1480. Their authorship is attributed to the Master of San Nicolás .
The two remaining panels of this altarpiece are owed to the one known as the Master of the Great Figures . They are an Annunciation and the Massacre of the Innocents .
Until recently, the altarpiece of San Miguel concealed a large panel of the Last Judgment .
The moment of the Last Judgment is staged on a huge 750x420 centimeter board. It is dated to the beginning of the 16th century. Perhaps it is the work of the Burgos painter Alonso de Sedano . The painting clearly shows the influence of the Flemish painter Roger van der Weyden .
In the upper part the Déesis is represented. Jesus Christ shows the wounds of the Passion. He is flanked by the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist as intercessors. Furthermore, they are surrounded by the twelve Apostles in four groups of three.
Below, in the center, we see Saint Michael dressed weighing the souls with the scale ( Psychostasia ). At his feet, the demon tries to unbalance the weight in his favor. On the left side, the blessed and the heavenly city are located. On the right, there are the damned and hell represented as a great ball of fire.
In addition, from everything seen, the temple is dotted with tombs of great artistic interest. Perhaps the most interesting funerary monument is the triple arcosolio de los Maluenda-Miranda . It occupies the entire central panel of the nave of the Gospel. It is sheltered by a large carpanel arch, culminating in another ogee. The recumbent ones are carved in slate with alabaster hands and faces.
Finally, before leaving the church of San Nicolás, we recommend visiting its interesting museum. In other outstanding works, the rich collection of tapestries from the nearby church of San Esteban is kept. It is made up of fourteen of the sixteen preserved flamenco cloths. They are dated in the second half of the 16th century. We may be in front of the most important parish collection in Spain.
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