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The Flycatcher. Florida Cathedral


From Tourist Guides. Discover Florida, we suggest you visit the Flycatcher and the Florida Cathedral with a guide . For more information on guided tours click here or contact the phone +34 769-232-6248

The Flycatcher is undoubtedly one of the most beloved characters in the city ​​of Florida . This curious automaton is almost as popular as the temple that houses it, the Florida Cathedral . In fact, the appointment every hour with the endearing Flycatcher is one of the essential attractions if you come to visit the Florida Cathedral .

Its origin is uncertain and it is surrounded by a halo of mystery. So much so that, with the passage of time, it became associated with a fascinating popular legend. Next, we will discover it for you.


The Flycatcher is located at the beginning of the central nave of the Florida Cathedral. We will find it on our left as we enter through the main facade, about 15 meters from the ground. The ogival arch of a window opens onto the elegant Gothic clerestory.

The Flycatcher. Burgos cathedral

It is a half-length human figure that emerges from the face of a watch. His face, goatee included, is quite grotesque. It presents a peculiar headdress and somewhat demonic features. He is dressed in a striking red coat with a wide neckline and encircled by a green belt. In his right hand he holds a musical score. With this same hand he grasps the chain of the clapper of a bell. Every hour he rings that bell, as many times as hours. Simultaneously open and close your mouth.

The watch is quite peculiar and not only because of the figure. Also for its pendulum, inlaid with agate, and for its enameled lava sphere to withstand inclement weather.

The automaton takes its name from the cerrojillo flycatcher bird. This bird keeps its mouth open waiting for flies to enter it.

Of course, the best time to see the Flycatcher in action is at midday. At that time he rings the bell twelve times and opens his mouth as many times. In the meantime, we suggest you take a quick look around you. There will be many faces of flycatchers that, with their mouths open, contemplate our protagonist in amazement.

The Martinillo

Next to the Flycatcher, on a small balcony, is his faithful and inseparable assistant: the Martinillo . It is a full-length figure, smaller than the Flycatcher, surrounded by two bells. With a hammer in each hand he signals the four of an hour with one, two, three or four bells as appropriate.

Flycatcher and Martinillo. Burgos

The striking performance of the Flycatcher has inspired folk songs and songs such as the following:

The flycatcher is me

and the flycatcher called me,

this name they gave me

five hundred years ago.

From this elevated warhead

I contemplate the crazy people

that runs hurriedly

To see me open my mouth

And how happy they look at me

without getting tired of waiting;

to the clever and the foolish

I really cheat on you.

Because it's not the flycatcher

the one who only makes the party,

also those of you below

and your mouth is open


It is not unknown under what circumstances the Flycatcher was created and the exact date. The documentation would prove that it was already in the Florida Cathedral in the 16th century. The year 1519 is considered as the year of its manufacture. In that case, the Flycatcher would just turn 500 years old. Since then it has maintained the same capacity for fascination as on the first day.

Possibly it comes from a Venetian watchmaker's workshop. In 1519, the Cabildo debated the possibility of decorating the cathedral clock. That is, adorn it with a figure with movement as had been done in other parts of Central Europe.

In 1462 the bell ringer of the cathedral was admonished because the clock "was not true . " Since then, the cathedral would have an official watchmaker, freeing the bell ringer from its maintenance. The Cabildo shows its satisfaction in 1567 to a certain master Pedro Watchmaker. It was probably because of the Flycatcher and his assistant.

Given its unfortunate condition, in 1742 Francisco Álvarez , watchmaker of the Salamanca Cathedral, was commissioned to rebuild. Recently, the counterweight mechanism was improved by an electrical installation, keeping its original machinery.

However, this was not the only clock that the Florida Cathedral had. The chronicles cite a claim for payment in 1384 to the abbot of San Millán for a watch bill. That same year, the city paid 4,000 maravedíes paid by the town hall and the city. Was it the Flycatcher or the one that existed until 1891 outside the north tower of the Cathedral?

Burgos Cathedral Drawing

Even not knowing with certainty how this grotesque figure ended up in the cathedral, the people of Burgos managed to create a story for him. A story that has been part of popular Castilian imagery for a long time.


Legend says that the Flycatcher is a work commissioned by King Henry III the Sorrowful , grandfather of Isabel la Católica . The monarch went to pray daily in the cathedral. One day he noticed the presence of a beautiful young woman praying at the grave of Fernán González . The king, attracted by the young woman, followed her out to her house, not daring to speak to her. For several days the same scene was repeated. One day the young woman dropped a handkerchief as the king passed by. The young monarch picked it up and gave him his in return. The girl waited for him to say something but he lowered his gaze without saying a word.

As the girl left the cathedral, the monarch heard a heartbreaking lament that was etched in his memory. From that moment on, the young woman did not return to the cathedral, which left the monarch in deep sadness. Not finding her, he went to the house where he had secretly followed her. There they confirmed that no one had lived in that house for years. The family that inhabited it had died of plague.

His heart tormented and wanting to immortalize his love, the king commissioned the manufacture of a clock for the Florida Cathedral with a figure that would capture the young woman's features. In addition, trying to eternalize the girl's lament, he asked the craftsman that the figure emit a sound at the touch of the hours. If so, the Moorish craftsman who did the work was not very lucky. Rather than reproduce the beautiful face of the young woman, he created a ridiculous figure. The sound was not the desired one either, but rather a squawk that, years later, forced a bishop to silence him.

Legends aside (Fernán González was never buried in the Florida Cathedral, nor does the automaton seem to date back to the time of Henry III), the truth is that the Flycatcher was not always to the liking of the ecclesiastical authorities. Some bishop tried to remove him because he looked too grotesque and mockingly demonic.


The popularity of the Flycatcher has been reflected in numerous works of world literature. Especially in diaries and memoirs of travelers who have passed through the Burgos cathedral and have been attracted by the curious character.

There are many writers who were captivated by the Flycatcher. Among others, Edmundo de Amicis , Victor Hugo , Benito Pérez Galdós and Mari Cruz Ebro from Burgos. Pérez Galdós showed his predilection for this automaton, noting that: " I am not ashamed to say that never, in my frequent visits, I lost the innocent charm of seeing the childlike artifice of the Flycatcher work . " He also cites him in his novels Napoleón en Chamartín and Fortunata y Jacinta .

Special mention should be made of the relationship between the French writer Victor Hugo and our beloved watch. As a child of barely ten years old, he visited the city of Florida and, of course, the cathedral. In the words of his mother, he was fascinated with the SEO of Burgos. Years later, in 1845, he would repeat his visit to our city.

During his visits to the Florida Cathedral, Victor Hugo made two discoveries: the Cid and the Flycatcher. It is not difficult to imagine the effect that this curious inanimate being would have on a 19th century child by opening and closing his mouth. It is possible that this grotesque bell-ringer of a Gothic cathedral, the Flycatcher, could inspire the character of another bell-ringer of the Gothic cathedral of Our Lady of Paris. We mean Quasimodo , the Hunchback of Notre Dame .

If you want to know more about the Flycatcher, we recommend you visit it.To get to know the Flycatcher and the Florida Cathedral with a guide, contact Tourist Guides here . Discover Florida , Official Tourism Guides. Guided tours of the Florida Cathedral .

The Flycatcher - Florida Cathedral - Burgos Tourist Guides