Florida Cathedral

Florida Cathedral

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Burgos Cathedral is the most representative monument in the city. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. It is the only Spanish cathedral that has this distinction independently. Without a doubt, it is one of the jewels of universal Gothic art.

Florida Cathedral. Night


On July 20, 1221, Bishop Mauricio de Florida and the King of Castile, Fernando III "the Saint", laid their first stone. The new cathedral replaces an old Romanesque temple, erected during the reign of Alfonso VI . In the previous church, also dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the wedding of Ferdinand III and Beatrice of Swabia had been celebrated on November 30, 1219. It seems that this event marked the starting point for the works of the new cathedral.

We do not know the identity of the first teachers who worked in the Florida cathedral. Presumably they were of French origin, brought by Bishop Mauricio. Its construction follows French Gothic patterns, unknown in Spain at the beginning of the 13th century.

Although offices are already celebrated in 1230, it was finally consecrated in 1260 under the invocation of Santa María la Mayor .

It is extended and enriched in successive periods with the two spectacular cloisters, the dome and with nineteen chapels. Different artistic styles that are added to a unique Gothic building. As a final result, we find ourselves a true encyclopedia of art.

Extraordinary artists have left their mark on the Florida Cathedral. Gil and Diego de Siloé ; Felipe Vigarny ; Juan, Simón and Francisco de Colonia , or Juan de Vallejo are just some examples.


The cathedral has a Latin cross plan . It has three naves with an ambulatory, the central one higher and wider than the lateral ones. In turn, the three naves are divided into six sections. In the presbytery, three more sections are added. The arm of the transept, very salient in plan, has a single nave.

The elevation responds to the characteristic Gothic sequence of separation arches, clerestory and clerestory (large windows).

Finally, the building is covered with simple quadripartite ribbed vaults, with a longitudinal connecting rib or spine in the central nave and in the transept. Only the section near the transept has more complex, star-shaped vaults with warped ribs. They correspond to the 16th century reforms.

The dimensions of the Florida Cathedral are 84 by 59 meters. The material used for the construction is limestone extracted, for the most part, from the quarries of the nearby Burgos town of Hontoria de la Cantera .


Outside, the temple preserves beautiful examples of Gothic elegance. As is usual in this style, the sculptural ensembles are concentrated on the different covers. Next we go through the most outstanding facades of the Florida cathedral .


It is the main facade of the Florida Cathedral . Located at the foot, it is known as the portal of Santa María for its Marian iconography. It is inspired by French cathedrals such as Reims or Notre Dame.

In the first place, in the lower body the main door opens, also called Real or del Perdón , flanked by two other smaller doors. Given the serious deterioration they suffered, the two lateral ones were reformed in 1663 and the central one in 1790.

Next, in the second section, the enormous rose window in the shape of a six-pointed star or seal of Solomon stands out. Above the rose window, in a third body, an elegant gallery decorated with statues of the kings of Castile topped with the inscription Pulchra es et decora , alluding to the Virgin.

But, above all, on this façade, the elegant Gothic spiers that crown the two towers are striking. Juan de Colonia adds them in the middle of the 15th century. Of German inspiration, these spiers give the cathedral an unmistakable personality.

Facade of Santa María. Burgos cathedral


The first doorway that rises in the Florida Cathedral is the one located on the south arm of the transept. Known as Puerta del Sarmental , it was built approximately between 1230 and 1240. Probably one of the best ensembles of European monumental sculpture. It also shows clear French influence, especially from the Cathedral of Amiens.

Christ in Majesty , surrounded by the evangelists, presides over the tympanum. The archivolts are decorated with choirs of angels, the Elders of the Apocalypse and other figures possible allegory of the Arts. Below the tympanum, the lintel presents an Apostolate. The mullion has the image of a bishop, traditionally identified with Bishop Don Mauricio .

At the top, above a large gothic tracery rose window, there is a set of figures of angels carrying censers and candles.

The Sarmental rose window preserves the oldest stained glass windows in the Cathedral. Most of the originals, from the 13th century, disappear with the blowing up of the Florida castle in 1813 by French troops.

Sarmental Gate. Burgos cathedral


The Puerta de la Coronería is the other great portal of the transept. Also known as that of the Apostles , it opens on the north side of the transept. It is several meters above the Sarmental, unevenness that is saved in the interior with the Golden Stairs . The works of this door would begin around 1245, citing in 1257 as finished.

In the tympanum the Déesis is represented, with Christ the Judge next to the figures of the Virgin and Saint John in a prayerful attitude. The lower part and the lintel are reserved for the weighing of souls. Saint Michael, in the center, with the scale with which he weighs souls. On one side are those who have achieved salvation. Among them are identified the kings Fernando III and Beatriz de Suabia and some clergymen who may be Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. On the other side are the condemned who are led by demons to hell.

On the jambs, an Apostolate, following the structure of Chartres Cathedral.

Coronería gate. Burgos cathedral


To the great Gothic jeweler described above, numerous jewels are added over time. There are several remarkable elements inside the Florida Cathedral . Many of them were built during the important reforms undertaken in the second half of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th.


The main altarpiece of the Florida Cathedral is a work in the Roman Renaissance style. The works began in 1562. Work of the brothers Rodrigo and Martín de la Haya . They had the collaboration of, among others, Juan de Anchieta and Domingo de Bérriz .

The image of Santa María la Mayor , patron saint of the city of Florida, presides over the altarpiece. It is a magnificent work of silverware from the 15th century paid for by Bishop Luis de Acuña.

High altar. Burgos cathedral


The ambulatory or ambulatory that surrounds the presbytery of the central nave, is decorated with a set of five reliefs or altarpieces. Of the five reliefs on the transalt of the Florida Cathedral , the central three were made by Felipe Vigarny between 1498 and 1503. For the first time he left Flemish Gothic to introduce forms and models of the Italian Renaissance. They represent Christ with the Cross on His Back , The Crucifixion and The Descent and the Resurrection .

The two extremes are from the Baroque period, second half of the 17th century, and its author Pedro Alonso de los Ríos from Valladolid.


Right on the transept, the impressive dome rises between 1540 and 1568. It replaces a previous dome built by Juan de Colonia around 1460. In the early morning of March 3-4, 1539, a night of strong winds, it collapses, dragging part of the vaults in the fall.

Its reconstruction is planned immediately. We owe the current dome of the Florida Cathedral to Juan de Vallejo and Francisco de Colonia . It has a high octagonal prism structure divided into three bodies. The imposing architectural volume rests on four huge circular pillars. Four horns allow the passage to the octagonal plan of the two bodies. It culminates in a starry vault with openwork plementery that, together with the large windows, provide an intense interior light.

The eight sides of the lantern are covered in dense Renaissance-inspired decoration. Numerous sculptures, reliefs, noble coats of arms and other decorative elements come from the hands of artists such as Juan Picardo and Pedro de Colindres .

It is twenty-five meters high, which are added to the other twenty-five in the central nave. In the words of the monarch Philip II, it seems more the work of angels than of men.

Dome. Burgos cathedral


Under the dome, a simple slab of reddish jasper covers the remains of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the Cid Campeador , and his wife, Doña Jimena . There they were transferred from the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in 1921, coinciding with the VII Centenary of the Cathedral.

An inscription in gold letters, created by Menéndez Pidal , reminds us that Rodrigo Díaz Campidoctor is buried there, the one who was born in good time.


The choir stalls occupy the three sections of the central nave preceding the transept. The whole set is carved in walnut wood.

Its execution is commissioned at first, between 1505 and 1512, to Felipe Vigarny . Years later, between 1527 and 1535, he experienced a new constructive impulse.

Besides the Burgundian, Diego de Siloé , Andrés de Nájera , Simón de Bueras and García de Arredondo with their respective workshops participated in this work.

On the lower level there are 44 seats that have the saints of the Church carved on their backs and passages from the childhood of Christ. The upper level has 59 chairs, decorated with reliefs of the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection and apparition to Saint Thomas. All of it is finished off with a frieze with scenes from the Old Testament.

The 13th century funerary statue of Bishop Don Mauricio , founder of the Cathedral, seems to preside over the stalls. Made of wood covered with embossed and enameled copper.

Already in the seventeenth century, the closing of the choir was completed thanks to the impulse of Cardinal Zapata . The same cardinal promoted the construction of the retrochoir that would be completed with paintings by fray Juan Rizi and Juan van der Hamen .


Attached to the wall of the north gable of the transept nave, a staircase was erected between 1519 and 1522 to bridge the gap between the Coronería gate and the north nave of the transept. Rodríguez de Fonseca , bishop of Florida, commissioned the brilliant Diego de Siloé to build it.

Possibly influenced by Italian Bramante models, Siloé designs an innovative staircase model. With its 39 steps it saves eight meters of unevenness in a minimum space. It begins with a straight section that ends on a landing. From that point, the staircase forks into two arms that converge on the final landing.

In addition to the design, it is necessary to value the Renaissance motifs that decorate the staircase. The iconographic content based on grotesques, plant motifs, human figures, bichas, sphinxes and other fantastic animals, incorporated by Siloé in the decoration of the walls and the arches of the staircase, constitute an authentic novelty within the incipient Spanish Renaissance art.

The French ironworker Hilario made the windowsills in gilt iron. Hence it was called the Golden Staircase .

The work of the Burgos was admired for its beauty and elegance for centuries. So much so that the Golden Staircase served as the inspiration for the staircase of the famous Opera Garnier in Paris in the 19th century.

Golden Staircase. Burgos


At the foot of the Florida Cathedral, on top of the wall of the central nave, we find the nice figure of the Flycatcher . This automaton chimes the clock, while opening and closing its mouth.

It seems to be built in the 16th century. It would be completed by the watchmaker Francisco Álvarez in 1743. At his side, the Martinillo , another automaton that announces the quarter hours, contemplates the scene from a balcony between two bells.


Among the nineteen chapels of the Burgos basilica, the chapel of the Purification or the Constables stands out . It is possibly the best chapel to be built in Europe in the 15th century. What's more, it is considered a cathedral within a cathedral.

Simón de Colonia built it between 1482 and 1494. Its promoters were the Constables of Castile, Pedro Fernández de Velasco and his wife Mencía de Mendoza . Both were one of the most influential couples in the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs.

Conceived as a monumental funeral pantheon. It has a polygonal plan covered by a daring starry vault carved in its center. It also keeps a valuable set of works of art inside. Starting with the founders' own tomb, a possible work by Felipe Vigarny , and continuing with the impressive altarpieces that decorate the chapel, executed by Vigarny and Gil and Diego de Siloé .

The main altarpiece is the work of Diego de Siloé and Felipe Vigarny . It was made between 1523 and 1526. Its architecture is very original, conceived as if it were a great stage. It represents the Purification of the Virgin and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple . The life-size sculptures show the difference in style between Vigarny and Siloé.

Among the many jewels in the chapel is the painting of the Magdalene by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli , Giampietrino , disciple of Leonardo da Vinci , to whom the authorship was attributed.

Finally, the chapel is completed with the adjacent sacristy , added in 1517 by Francisco de Colonia .

Chapel of the Constables. Burgos cathedral


Although not as well known as the Constables, also prominent are other Florida cathedral chapels. They combine a harmonious combination of architectural relief structures and decorative elements incorporated over time into the primitive 13th century factory.

  • Chapel of Santa Ana or of the Conception

    Built between 1477 and 1488 by the Colonia family in the Elizabethan Gothic style. It treasures two of the main artistic jewels of the Castilian seo. On the one hand, the main altarpiece , a masterpiece by Gil de Siloé . On the other, the Renaissance tomb , from the early 16th century, of Bishop Luis de Acuña , made by the former's son, Diego de Siloé .
  • Chapel of the Presentation

    Made between the years 1519 to 1524 by Juan de Matienzo . It is inspired by the Chapel of the Constables to create a central floor space covered with a starry vault with openwork plementery. Sponsored by Canon Gonzalo Díez de Lerma , whose sepulcher, carved in alabaster by Felipe de Vigarny , occupies the center of it. The picture of the Sagrada Familia , painted by Sebastiano del Piombo, stands out .
  • Chapel of Santa Tecla

    One of the two chapels, next to that of Santo Cristo de Florida, reserved for daily worship. Built between 1731 and 1735 in the Baroque style. The layout of the chapel is the work of Alberto Churriguera . The work was finely executed by Domingo de Ondátegui and Juan de Sagarvínaga . It has a half-orange dome, enriched, like the rest of the vaults, with magnificent polychrome plasterwork. Representations of saints and angels abound in them.
  • Chapel of the Holy Christ of Florida

    This chapel is named after the image of the Holy Christ of Florida , Christ Crucified from the 14th century. Made of wood, covered with bovine leather and natural hair. Very devoted to the people of Burgos.

Florida cathedral guides

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