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Wonders Of The World:
St. Mark's Church
Tower Of London
Cathedral Of Antwerp
The Taj Mahal
Cathedral Of Notre Dame
Kremlin
Cathedral Of York
Mosque Of Omar
Cathedral Of Burgos
The Pyramids
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Cathedral Of Strasburg
The Shway Dagohn
Cathedral Of Siena
Town Hall Of Louvain
Cathedral Of Seville
Windsor Castle
Cathedral of Cologne
Palce Of Versailles
Cathedral Of Lincoln

Cathedral Of Burgos

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Notwithstanding that Burgos was for so long a time the first city of Castile, it is not very Gothic in appearance; with the exception of a street where there are several windows and doors of the Renaissance, ornamented with coats of arms and their supporters, the houses do not date further back than the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, and are exceedingly commonplace; they are old, but not antique. But Burgos has her Cathedral, which is one of the most beautiful in the world; unfortunately, like all the Gothic cathedrals, it is shut in by a number of ignoble buildings which prevent you from appreciating the structure as a whole and grasping the mass at a glance. The principal porch looks upon a square, in the centre of which is a beautiful fountain surmounted by a delightful statue of Christ, the target for all the ruffians of the town who have no better pastime than throwing stones at its sculptures. The magnificent porch, like an intricate and flowered embroidery of lace, has been scraped and rubbed as far as the first frieze by I don't know what Italian prelates,-some important amateurs in architecture, who were great admirers of plain walls and ornamentation in good taste, and who, having pity for those poor barbarian architects who would not follow the Corinthian order and had no appreciation of Attic grace and the triangular fronton, wished to arrange the Cathedral in the Roman style. Many people are still of this opinion in Spain, where the so-called Messidor style flourishes in all its purity, and, exactly as was the case in France before the Romantic School brought the Middle Ages into favour again and caused the beauty and meaning of the cathedrals to be understood, prefer all kinds of abominable edifices, pierced with innumerable windows and ornamented with Paestumian columns, to the most florid and richly-carved Gothic cathedrals. Two sharp spires cut in saw-teeth and open-worked, as if pierced with a punch, festooned, embroidered, and carved down to the last details like the bezel of a ring, spring towards God with all the ardour of faith and transport of a firm convic tion. Our unbelieving campaniles would not dare to venture into the air with only stone-lace and ribs as delicate as gossamer to support them. Another tower, sculptured with an unheard-of wealth, but not so high, marks the spot where the transept intersects the nave, and completes the magnificence of the outline. A multitude of statues of saints, archangels, kings, and monks animates the whole mass of architecture, and this stone population is so numerous, so crowded, and so swarming, that surely it must exceed the population of flesh and blood inhabiting the town...

The choir, which contains the stalls, called silleria, is enclosed by iron grilles of the most wonderful repousse work; the pavement, according to the Spanish custom, is covered with immense mats of spartium, and each stall has, more over, its own little mat of dry grass, or rushes. On raising your head you see a kind of dome, formed by the interior of the tower of which we have already spoken; it is a gulf of sculptures, arabesques, statues, little columns, ribs, lancets, and pendentives-enough to give you a ver tigo. If you looked at it for two years, you would not see it all. It is as crowded together as the leaves of a cabbage, and fenestrated like a fish-slice; it is as gigantic as a pyramid and as delicate as a woman's ear-ring, and you cannot understand how such a piece of filigree-work has remained suspended in the air for so many centuries. What kind of men were those who made these marvellous buildings, whose splendours not even fairy palaces can surpass? Is the race extinct? And we, who are always boasting of our civilization, are we not decrepit barbarians in comparison? A deep sadness always oppresses my heart when I visit one of these stupendous edifices of the Past; I am seized with utter discouragement and my one desire is to steal into some corner, to place a stone beneath my head, and, in the immobility of contempiation, to await death, which is immobility itself. What is the use of working? Why should we tire ourselves? The most tremendous human effort will never produce anything equal to this. Ah well! even the names of these divine artists are forgotten, and to find any trace of them you must ransack the dusty archives in the convent! . , .

The sacristy is surrounded by a panelled wainscot, forming closets with flowered and festooned columns in rich taste; above the wainscot is a row of Venetian mirrors whose use I do not understand; certainly they must only be for ornament as they are too high for any one to see himself in them. Above the mirrors are arranged in chronological order, the oldest nearest the ceiling, the portraits of all the bishops of Burgos, from the first to the one now occupying the episcopal chair. These portraits, although they are oil, look more like pastels, or distemper, which is due to the fact that in Spain pictures are never varnished, and, for this lack of precaution, the dampness has destroyed many masterpieces. Although these portraits are, for the most part, imposing, they are hung too high for one to judge of the merit of the execution. There is an enormous buffet in the centre of the room and enormous baskets of spartium, in which the church ornaments and sacred vessels are kept. Under two glass cases are preserved as curiosities two coral trees, whose branches are much less complicated than the least arabesque in the Cathedral. The door is embellished with the arms of Burgos in relief, sprinkled with little crosses, gules.

Juan Cuchiller's room, which we next visited, is not at all remarkable in the way of architecture, and we were hastening to leave it when we were asked to raise our eyes and look at a very curious object. This was a great chest fastened to the wall by iron clamps. It would be hard to imagine a box more patched, more worm-eaten, or more dilapidated. It is surely the oldest chest in the world; an inscription in black-letter-Cofre del Cid-gives, at once, as you will readily believe, an enormous importance to these four boards of rotting wood. If we may believe the old chronicle, this chest is precisely that of the famous Ruy Uiaz de Bivar, better known under the name of the Cid Campeador, who, once lacking money, exactly like a simple author, notwithstanding he was a hero, had this filled with sand and stones and carried to the house of an honest Jewish usurer who lent money on this security, the Cid Campeador forbidding him to open the mysterious coffer until he had reimbursed the borrowed sum...

The need of the real, no matter how revolting, is a char a cteristic of Spanish Art: idealism and conventionality are not in the genius of these people completely deficient in aesthetic feeling. Sculpture does not suffice for them; they must have their statues coloured, and their madonnas painted and dressed in real clothes. Never, according to their taste, can material illusion be carried too far, and this terrible love of realism makes them often overstep the boundaries which separate sculpture from wax-works.

The celebrated Christ, so revered at Burgos that no one is allowed to see it unless the candles are lighted, is a striking example of this strange taste: it is neither of stone, nor painted wood, it is made of human skin (so the monks say), stuffed with much art and care. The hair is real hair, the eyes have eye-lashes, the thorns of the crown are real thorns, and no detail has been forgotten. Nothing can be more lugubrious and disquieting than this attenuated, crucified phantom with its human appearance and deathlike stillness; the faded and brownish-yellow skin is streaked with long streams of blood, so well imitated that they seem to trickle. It requires no great effort of imagination to give credence to the legend that it bleeds every Friday. In the place of folded, or flying drapery, the Christ of Burgos wears a white skirt embroidered in gold, which falls from the waist to the knees; this costume produces a peculiar effect, especially to us who are not accustomed to see our Lord attired thus. At the foot of the Cross three ostrich eggs are placed, a symbolical ornament of whose meaning I am ignorant, unless they allude to the Trinity, the principle and germ of everything.

We went out of the Cathedral dazzled, overwhelmed, and satiated with chefs d'oeuvre, powerless to admire any longer, and only with great difficulty we threw a glance upon the arch of Fernan Gonzalez, an attempt in classical architecture made by Philip of Burgundy at the beginning of the Renaissance.



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