1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burgos (city)

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BURGOS, the capital formerly of Old Castile, and since 1833 of the Spanish province of Burgos, on the river Arlanzón, and on the Northern railways from Madrid to the French frontier. Pop. (1900) 30,167. Burgos, in the form of an amphitheatre, occupies the lower slopes of a hill crowned by the ruins of an ancient citadel. It faces the Arlanzón, a broad and swift stream, with several islands in mid-channel. Three stone bridges lead to the suburb of La Vega, on the opposite bank. On all sides, except up the castle hill, fine avenues and public gardens are laid out, notably the Paseo de la Isla, extending along the river to the west. Burgos itself was originally surrounded by a wall, of which few fragments remain; but although its streets and broad squares, such as the central Plaza Mayór, or Plaza de la Constitucion, have often quite a modern appearance, the city retains much of its picturesque character, owing to the number and beauty of its churches, convents and palaces. Unaffected by the industrial activity of the neighbouring Basque Provinces, it has little trade apart from the sale of agricultural produce and the manufacture of paper and leathern goods.

But it is rich in architectural and antiquarian interest. The citadel was founded in 884 by Diego Rodriguez Porcelos, count of Castile; in the 10th century it was held against the kings of Leon by Count Fernan Gonzalez, a mighty warrior; and even in 1812 it was successfully defended by a French garrison against Lord Wellington and his British troops. Within its walls the Spanish national hero, the Cid Campeador, was wedded to Ximena of Oviedo in 1074; and Prince Edward of England (afterwards King Edward I.) to Eleanor of Castile in 1254. Statues of Porcelos, Gonzalez and the Cid, of Nuño Rasura and Lain Calvo, the first elected magistrates of Burgos, during its brief period of republican rule in the 10th century, and of the emperor Charles V., adorn the massive Arco de Santa Maria, which was erected between 1536 and 1562, and commemorates the return of the citizens to their allegiance, after the rebellion against Charles V. had been crushed in 1522. The interior of this arch serves as a museum. Tradition still points to the site of the Cid's birthplace; and a reliquary preserved in the town hall contains his bones, and those of Ximena, brought hither after many changes, including a partial transference to Sigmaringen in Germany.

Other noteworthy buildings in Burgos are the late 15th century Casa del Cordón, occupied by the captain-general of Old Castile; the Casa de Miranda, which worthily represents the best domestic architecture of Spain in the 16th century; and the barracks, hospitals and schools. Burgos is the see of an archbishop, whose province comprises the diocese of Palencia, Pamplona, Santander and Tudela. The cathedral, founded in 1221 by Ferdinand III. of Castile and the English bishop Maurice of Burgos, is a fine example of florid Gothic, built of white limestone (see ARCHITECTURE, Plate II. fig. 65). It was not completed until 1567, and the architects principally responsible for its construction were a Frenchman in the 13th century and a German in the 15th. Its cruciform design is almost hidden by the fifteen chapels added at all angles to the aisles and transepts, by the beautiful 14th-century cloister on the north-west and the archiepiscopal palace on the south-west. Over the three central doorways of the main or western façade rise two lofty and graceful towers. Many of the monuments within the cathedral are of considerable artistic and historical interest. The chapel of Corpus Christi contains the chest which the Cid is said to have filled with sand and subsequently pawned for a large sum to the credulous Jews of Burgos. The legend adds that he redeemed his pledge. In the aisleless Gothic church of Santa Agueda, or Santa Gadéa, tradition relates that the Cid compelled Alphonso VI. of Leon, before his accession to the throne of Castile in 1072, to swear that he was innocent of the murder of Sancho his brother and predecessor on the throne. San Estéban, completed between 1280 and 1350, and San Nicolás, dating from 1505, are small Gothic churches, each with a fine sculptured doorway. Many of the convents of Burgos have been destroyed, and those which survive lie chiefly outside the city. At the end of the Paseo de la Isla stands the nunnery of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas, originally a summer palace (huelga, "pleasure-ground") of the kings of Castile. In 1187 it was transformed into a Cistercian convent by Alphonso VIII., who invested the abbess with almost royal prerogatives, including the power of life and death, and absolute rule over more than fifty villages. Alphonso and his wife Eleanor, daughter of Henry II. of England, are buried here. The Cartuja de Miraflores, a Carthusian convent, founded by John II. of Castile (1406-1454), lies 2 m. south-east of Burgos. Its church contains a monument of exceptional beauty, carved by Gil de Siloë in the 15th century, for the tomb of John and his second wife, Isabella of Portugal. The convent of San Pedro de Cardeña, 7 m. south-east of Burgos, was the original burial-place of the Cid, in 1099, and of Ximena, in 1104. About 50 m. from the city is the abbey of Silos, which appears to have been founded under the Visigothic kings, as early as the 6th century. It was restored in 919 by Fernan Gonzalez, and in the 11th century became celebrated throughout Europe, under the rule of St Dominic or Domingo. It was reoccupied in 1880 by French Benedictine monks.

The known history of Burgos begins in 884 with the foundation of the citadel. From that time forward it steadily increased in importance, reaching the height of its prosperity in the 15th century, when, alternately with Toledo, it was occupied as a royal residence, but rapidly declining when the court was finally removed to Madrid in 1560. Being on one of the principal military roads of the kingdom, it suffered severely during the Peninsular War. In 1808 it was the scene of the defeat of the Spanish army by the French under Marshal Soult. It was unsuccessfully besieged by Wellington in 1812, but was surrendered to him at the opening of the campaign of the following year.

Of the extensive literature relating to Burgos, much remains unedited and in manuscript. A general description of the city and its monuments is given by A. Llacayo y Santa Maria in Burgos, &c. (Burgos, 1889). See also Architectural, Sculptural and Picturesque Studies in Burgos and its Neighbourhood, a valuable series of architectural drawings in folio, by J.B. Waring (London, 1852). The following are monographs on particular buildings:—

  • Historia de la Catedral de Burgos, &c., by P. Orcajo (Burgos, 1856).
  • El Castillo de Burgos, by E. de Oliver-Copons (Barcelona, 1893).
  • La Real Cartuja de Miraflores, by F. Tarin y Juaneda (Burgos, 1896).

For the history of the city see:

  • En Burgos, by V. Balaguér (Burgos, 1895).
  • Burgos en las comunidades de Castilla and Cosas de la vieja Burgos, both by A. Salvá (Burgos, 1895 and 1892).

The following relate both to the city and to the province of Burgos:—

  • Burgos, &c., by R. Amador de los Ríos, in the series entitled España (Barcelona, 1888).
  • Burgos y su provincia, anon. (Vitoria, 1898).
  • Intento de un diccionario biográfico y bibliográfico de autores de la prov. de Burgos, by M. Anibarro and M. Rives (Madrid, 1890).