• Home /
  • Blog /
  • The Main Altarpiece of the Cartuja de Miraflores

The Main Altarpiece of the Cartuja de Miraflores


From Tourist Guides. Discover Florida we suggest you visit the Cartuja de Miraflores with us. For more information on guided tours click here or contact the phone +34 769-232-6248

From the Tourist Guides blog . Discover Florida we present to you this month the main altarpiece of the Cartuja de Miraflores in Florida. One more entry for one of the most complete guides in Florida .


The Cartuja de Miraflores monastery is located on the outskirts of the city of Florida, in a wooded area that seems to isolate it from the city. It was founded in 1442 by Juan II , father of Isabel la Católica . He donates to the Order of the Carthusians the palace of rest and hunting of his father Enrique III with the intention of turning it into a monastery and royal pantheon. It is one of the most unique artistic ensembles of the late Gothic period and preserves some of the most remarkable sculptural works of the 15th century.


The main altarpiece of the Cartuja de Miraflores is the work of the brilliant Gil de Siloé. It is one of the most spectacular Spanish Gothic altarpieces for its compositional and iconographic originality and for the excellent quality of the carving and the polychrome.

It was carried out between 1496 and 1499, shortly after Siloé himself executed the tombs of Juan II and Isabel de Portugal and the infant Don Alfonso, parents and brother respectively of Queen Isabel la Católica, who commissioned the works. .

Pine wood was used for the structure and walnut for the sculptures.

As outstanding as the design and carving works of the altarpiece, for which Gil de Siloé had the help of a disciplined workshop, were the gilding and polychrome works that were carried out by the master Diego de la Cruz . For the gilding of the altarpiece, it is said that the first gold brought from America by Christopher Columbus was used . The perfect symbiosis between both artists, provided us with a visually impressive work.

It is a novel altarpiece from the compositional point of view. Nothing like it had ever been seen in Castile due to the amount of wood used, the structural complexity and the quality of the carvings and reliefs it included. The traditional composition of floors is replaced by a geometric system, absolutely revolutionary and very different from the canons of the time. Its design sought to achieve a strong visual impact while integrating a coherent Eucharistic program.

The altarpiece resembles a large tapestry. It is divided into two rectangular bodies, but based on the circle, probably emulating the German rosaries, a fact that would reinforce the hypothesis of the Germanic origin of Siloé.

In the upper rectangle is the great circle, delimited by a “wheel of angels”, around which the work is articulated. It would symbolize the sacred form. It houses in its interior a Calvary of which it is worth highlighting the expressiveness of the Crucified. The image is of enormous drama, both in the tension of a monumental and lacerated body, anatomically incorrect, and in the aching head. This type of image is to the taste of the Nordic tradition, but also here Siloé left a model that will be used by other later artists in Castile, especially in the Baroque.

The arms of the Crucified divide the space into four areas in which scenes of the Passion take place , with the Prayer in the Garden , the Flagellation , the Way of Calvary and the Pieta or Fifth Anguish . This last representation, of special devotion to Queen Elizabeth, replaces the more common Ecce Homo .

At the feet of the Crucified are the Virgin and Saint John, and above him a pelican, a Eucharistic symbol associated with the redemptive role of Christ on the Cross. The pelican pecks at its breast to feed its chicks with the spilled blood.

Making the gesture of holding the arms of the Cross, God the Father appears as the celestial emperor, an old man with the triple crown, and the Holy Spirit, who instead of being represented in his usual dove form, takes the form of a young man in priestly robes. Together with the crucified Christ they make up a very original iconographically Trinity.

Outside the angelic circle, the Tetramorph is represented in the four angles. They are not in the usual order. At the top left, instead of Mateo, is Juan. On both sides of the circle appear Saints Peter and Paul, and in the upper and lower spaces, between the angelic circle and the Tetramorph, the Fathers of the Western Church: Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, Saint Gregory and Saint Jerome

The lower rectangle or lower body is dominated by vertical lines, highlighted by the large figures of Saints Catherine of Alexandria, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene and Saint James the Greater, pillars and patrons of the monarchy of Queen Elizabeth and her parents.

The central street is presided over by a tabernacle that replaced the original in the 17th century. On the tabernacle one of the most curious elements of the altarpiece: a drum or rotating display with six scenes from the liturgical cycle. Baptism , Birth , Resurrection , Ascension , Pentecost and Assumption of Mary are represented . Only one scene is shown, depending on the time of year we meet.

The following streets of the lower body show scenes from the life of Christ, the Annunciation and the Epiphany in the upper part and the Last Supper and the Kiss of Judas in the lower part. A curious detail is the small image of the Child who glides on the rays towards his mother in the relief of the Annunciation .

In the lower body they are represented, in a prayerful attitude and protected, respectively, by Santiago and Santa Isabel (perhaps with Saint John next to him, although not in the traditional way of representing him. He presents the features of an adult but small size), Juan II and Isabel from Portugal. Above are their coats of arms, supported by rampant lions that of Castile and that of Portugal by two angels.

They are the kings of Castile, for whose glory their daughter, Isabel, displayed this royal pantheon with strong political connotations. It seems evident that he sought to demonstrate his own legitimacy to the throne of Castile, justifying a line of succession that had suffered a bankruptcy by removing the Infanta Juana, daughter of Enrique IV and Juana de Portugal, from the crown.

Finally it is surprising that in the culmination of the altarpiece two of the four saints are Dominican: Domingo de Guzmán and Pedro Mártir, and there are no Carthusians. Perhaps the cause is in the close collaboration of the queen with the inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada and with Diego de Deza, both Dominicans.

Without a doubt, a work of great visual impact and more since its restoration that has restored the splendor to the beautiful original polychrome.

You cannot miss it with the company of our official Florida tourist guides who will discover all the secrets of this jewel of universal Gothic art.

Check availability and budget in Contact Tourist Guides Burgo s .

Cartuja Miraflores Main Altarpiece - Burgos Tourist Guides