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The Archdiocese of Burgos (from burgi, burgorum , signifying a consolidation of districts or small villages) has been since the tenth century an episcopal see of Spain, to which in the eleventh century the ancient Sees of Oca and Valpuesta were transferred. In 1574 Gregory XIII raised it to metropolitan rank, at the request of Philip II . The archdiocese now (Concordat of 1851) comprises almost the entire province of Burgos. Its suffragans are: Calahorra (Logroño), El Burgo de Osma, Palencia, Santander, Leon, and Vitoria. Its area is approximately 8694 square miles, with a population of 340,000. The diocese is divided into 1220 parishes, which form forty-seven vicariates.


The northern and eastern portion of the diocese is mountainous, thickly wooded, and traversed by rivers, among which is the Ebro, which rises in the mountains and serves as the eastern boundary for Miranda. The Arlanza which crosses the diocese from east to west flows by Salas de los Infantes, near the famous monastery of Silos, and through the centre of the well-known town of Lerma. The mountainous region is unproductive of cereals, but fruits grow in abundance, and fine pasture-lands sustain great herds of cows and sheep, which furnish excellent meat and milk. Delicate cheeses which take their name from the city and are famous throughout Spain, are made in this section. Minerals are abundant, especially sulphate of soda, common salt, iron, and hard coal. The southern part of the diocese, especially the valley and plains, is fertile and produces abundantly vegetables, cereals, and quite a quantity of wind. The climate, cold but healthy, is damp towards the north. Although this section has few industries, the transportation of its fruit and minerals is greatly facilitated by the numerous highways and by the railroad between Madrid and France which crosses the eastern side of the diocese from south to north. There are also some secondary railway lines for the operation of the mines.


Burgos possesses more religious monuments than any other Spanish diocese, not even excepting Toledo - evidences of the piety of the counts and kings of Castile and Leon. In addition to the collegiate churches of Lerma, Villadiego, Plampiega, Palenzuela, Cobarrubias, and others, there are in Burgos alone many magnificent buildings. The cathedral, which its chapel of the Condestable, the monastery of Las Huelgas, and the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores, are museums of really permanent value.

The Cathedral

As an architectural monument this structure displays the best features of the art of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. It was commenced by Bishop Mauritius in 1221, in the reign of Ferdinand III and Beatrice of Swabia, and is Gothic in style. the principal façade, Santa María la Mayor, faces west, and on either side rise two towers about 262 feet in height, terminating in octagonal spires covered with open stonework traceries. The façade is composed of three stories, or sections. The first, or ground story has three ogival entrances with rectangular openings; the second has a gallery enclosed by a pinnacled balustrade and a rose window as delicately carved as a piece of lace, which admits some light into the church. In the upper-most story there are two double-arched windows of ogival style, with eight intercolumnar spaces, in each of which there is a statue on a pedestal. The whole is finished with a balustrade of letters carved in stone and forming the inscription: Pulchra es et decora (Thou art beautiful and graceful), in the centre of which is a statue of the Blessed Virgin. In the lateral sections (the towers) the windows are enclosed by stone balustrades, and the top is surmounted by balconies of stone surrounded by balustrades formed of Gothic letters in various inscriptions; needle-pointed pinnacles finish the four corners. The spires, as already said, are octagonal in shape; a gallery runs around the eight sides near the top, upon which rest the graceful points of the conical finial.

The north portal is known as the portada de la Coronería . In the lower portion of this are statues of the Twelve Apostles, the windows in the central section being of the primitive ogival style, and in the upper story there are three double-arched windows with statues joined to the shafts of the columns; two small spires, conical in shape like the main ones and decorated with balustrades, rise on either side of this façade. From the portal of the Coronería one can descend to that of the Pellerjería , which faces east and is of the Renaissance style known as the Plateresque. It is divided into three sections, the two end ones being alike, with the centre different in style and dimensions. The former are composed of pilasters minutely carved, between which four statues are placed. The middle section, which serves for an entrance, has three alabaster pilasters, the intercolumnar spaces bearing panel-pictures representing the martyrdom of saints. The façade as a whole gives the impression of a gorgeous picture, and the ornate and fantastic devices sculptured all over its magnificent surface are simply innumerable.

The octagonal chapel of the Condestable, of florid Gothic and very pure in design, is the best of the many chapels of the cathedral. Its roof if finished with balustraded turrets, needle-pointed pinnacles, statues, and countless other sculptural devices. In the lower portion coats of arms, shields, and crouching lions have been worked into the ensemble. The exterior of the sacristy is decorated with carved traceries, figures of angels and armoured knights. The tabernacle is of extraordinary magnificence and is composed of two octagonal sections in Corinthian style.

Las Huelgas

Next to the cathedral in magnificence is the famous Monasterio de las Huelgas on the outskirts of the city. It dates from the year 1180, and architecturally belongs to the transition period from Byzantine to Gothic, although in the course of time almost every style has been introduced into it. This convent has two remarkable cloisters, one a very fine example of the earlier period and of the use of semi-circular arches and delicate and varied columns; the other of the ogival style of the transition period. The interior of the church is in the style of the latter, enormous columns supporting its magnificent vault; the entrance is modern. This convent is celebrated for the extraordinary privileges granted to its abbess by kings and popes.


The Carthusian monastery of Miraflores, celebrated for the strict observance of its rule, is situated about one mile from the city. A very beautiful and life-like statue of St. Bruno carved in wood is one of the treasures of the monastery ; the stalls in the church also display exquisite workmanship. The mausoleum of King John II and of his wife Isabel, in this monastery, is constructed of the finest marble and so delicately carved that portions seem to be sculptured in wax rather than stone. Around the top are beautiful statues of angels in miniature, which might be the work of Phidias. The French soldiers in the War of Independence (1814) mutilated this beautiful work, cutting off some of the heads and carrying them away to France.

Celebrated Churches

Burgos has other important churches. That of Santa Agueda, commonly called Santa Gadea, is chiefly celebrated for its antiquity and for the historic fact that it was in this church that Alfonso VI, in the presence of the famous Cid Campeador (Rodrigo Díaz del Vivar), swore that he had taken no part in the death of his brother the king, Don Sancho, assassinated in the Cerco de Zamora. without this oath he never would have been allowed to succeed to the royal crown of Castile. In this church also the Augustinian friar, St. Juan de Sahagún, was wont to preach, hear confessions, and give missions, after he had renounced the canonry and other ecclesiastical benefices which he held in that diocese. Among the other notable churches are: San Esteban, San Gil (Sancti Aegidii), San Pedro, San Cosme y San Damian, Santiago (Sancti Jacobi), San Lorenzo, and San Lesmes (Adelelmi). The Convento de la Merced, occupied by the Jesuits, and the Hospital del Rey are also worthy of mention. In the walls of the city are the famous gateway of Santa María, erected for the first entrance of the Emperor Charles V, and the arch of Fernán González. The diocese has two fine ecclesiastical seminaries. There are also many institutions for secular education. Schools are maintained in every diocese, the Instituto Provincial, and many colleges are conducted by private individuals, religious orders, and nuns both cloistered and uncloistered.

History of Burgos

When the Romans took possession of what is now the province of Burgos it was inhabited by the Morgobos, Turmodigos, Berones, and perhaps also the Pelendones, the last inhabitants of the northern part of the Celtiberian province. the principal cities, according to Ptolemy, were: Brabum, Sisara, Deobrigula, Ambisna Segiasamon, Verovesca (briviesca), and others. In the time of the Romans it belonged to Hither Spain (Hispania Citerior) and afterwards to the Tarragonese province. The Arabs occupied all of Castile, though only for a brief period, and left no trace of their occupation. Alfonso (III) the Great reconquered it about the middle of the ninth century, and built many castles for the defence of the Christians, then extending their dominion and reconquering the lost territory. In this way the region came to be known as Castilla ( Latin castella ), i.e. "land of castles". Don Diego, Count of Porcelos, was entrusted with the government of this territory, and commanded to promote the increase of the Christian population. with this end in view he gathered the inhabitants of the surrounding country into one village, which took the name of Burgos, or burgi. The city thus bounded began to be called Caput Castellae. The territory ( condado ), subject to the Kings of Leon, continued to be governed by counts and was gradually extended by victories over the Moors, until the time of Fernán González, the greatest of these rulers, when it became independent; it later on took the name of the Kingdom of Castile, being sometimes united with Navarre and sometimes with Leon. In the reign of St. Ferdinand III (c. 1200-52), Leon and Castile were definitely united, but they continued to be called respectively the Kingdom of Leon and the Kingdom of Castile until the nineteenth century. This district has been the scene of many and varied events: the wars with the Arabs, the struggles between Leon and Navarre, and between Castile and Aragon, the War of Independence against France, and the civil wars of the Spanish succession.


Some important councils have been held in Burgos. A national council took place there in 1078, although opinions differ as to date (the "Boletín de la Academia de la Historia de Madrid ", 1906, XLIX, 337, says 1080). This was presided over by the papal delegate, Cardinal Roberto and attended by Alfonso VI, and was convoked for the purpose of introducing into Spain the Roman Breviary and Missal instead of the Gothic, or Mozarabic, then in use. Another national council, presided over by Cardinal Boso (d. 1181), also papal delegate, settled questions of discipline and established diocesan rights and limits. The proceedings of this council remained unpublished until quite recently, when they were made known in the Boletín already mentioned (XLVIII) 395). In 1898 a provincial council was called by Archbishop (not Cardinal ) Don Fr. Gregorio Aguirre, in which the obligations of the clergy and the faithful were most minutely set forth.


St. Julian, Bishop of Cuenca, called the Almoner, because of his great charity to the poor, was born in Burgos; also St. Amaro the Pilgrim, who has always had a special cult paid to him in Burgos, though not found in the Roman Martyrology. St. Iñigo (Enecus or Ignatius), abbot of Oña, while not born in Burgos, laboured there for many years; also St. Domingo de Silos, abbot and reformer of the famous convent of Silos, and St. Juan de Sahagún, a native of that town in the province of Leon. Among its saints may also be mentioned the martyrs of Cardeña, a religious of the convent of the same name, who in the tenth century were put to death for the Faith by the Arab soldiers of the Emir of Cordova in one of their numerous invasions of Castile ; and St. Casilda, daughter of one of the Moorish kings of Toledo. She was converted near Burgos whither she had gone with her father's consent to drink the water of some medicinal springs. She built a hermitage and died a saintly death.


In the long line of bishops and archbishops the following deserve special mention: Pablo de Santa María (1396-1456), a converted rabbi, preceptor and counsellor of John II; his son and successor (1435-56) Alfonso (de Cartagena ), one of the most learned members of the Council of Basle and to whom is owing the erection of the Chapel del Condestable by Juan de Colonia, a German architect who accompanied him to Spain ; Cardinal Inigo López de Mendoza y Zuniga, brother of the Count of Peñaranda, Duke of Miranda, who in 1535 convoked a synod ; the Cardinal Archbishop de Pacheco, in whose time Burgos was raised to the dignity of an archiepiscopal see ; and Archbishop Don Fr. Gregorio Aguirre, also administrator of the See of Calahorra.

Among the famous laymen, the name of Rodrigo Díaz del Vivar (d. 1099), the Cid Campeador, naturally stands pre-eminent. He was the hero of his time, and the man most feared by the Mohammedans, whom he defeated in innumerable encounters. He is buried in Burgos, in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. Don Ramón Bonifaz was according to some authorities a native of Burgos, but in any event he lived there. St. Ferdinand entrusted to him the task of forming the Spanish squadron with which he established and maintained communication with the troops who were besieging Seville, and prevented the Moors from communicating with the city. One of his fleets destroyed the bridge by which the Moors had access to the outside world and received provisions; this brought about the surrender (1248) of the city of Seville to the Christians, led by St. Ferdinand himself.

Burgos has produced many men of letters. The bibliography, published (1889) by Don Manuel Martínez Añibarro under the title "Diccionario Biográfico y Bibliográfico de Burgos", forms a small folio volume of 570 pages. Among the most distinguished writers are Archbishop Pablo de Santa María who wrote "Scrutinium Scripturarum" (Mantua, 1474) against the Jews. the aforesaid Don Alonso de Cartagena, his son, author of various works; the learned Augustinian friar Enrique Flórez, author of the famous works, "La España Sagrada" (1743-75, 29 vols., continued by others to 1886, 51 vols.), "Memorias de las Reynas" (1762), "Medallas Antiguas" (1757-73), and many others. His statue was erected in his native town of Villadiego by popular subscription.

Among the several newspapers published at Burgos "El Castellano" and "El Boletín Eclesiástico" are under the direction of the archbishop.

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