The historic heart of Burgos, Spain, is chocked full of shops, tourists, clergy, and workers. Buildings are joined in a continuous wall, and the daytime is alive with motion and sound. One place is different, though. You can see part of it on the right hand side of the photo.
Here is a better view. It is Divina Pastora, a chapel and albergue just steps away from the great Gothic cathedral in Burgos. Look closely at its design. You can see the oldest part, with light stone, and the more recent brick floor added atop.
It is a humble, quiet place. Simple. The complete opposite of the cathedral I will detail below. The albergue occupies the upper floor. It is small, but clean and warm. Alicia (Al-ee-see-yah) staffs it. In the evenings she sings in the chapel. In the morning she serenaded us awake with gentle guitar music and her sweet voice singing “Good morning, good morning, good morning.” The sound of her voice, the beauty of it and the sweetness, makes it my favorite memory from the Camino.
There, I encountered the Italian man I met in Santo Domingo de Calzada.
“Are you going to the cathedral?” I asked.
“No, I don’t like that you have to pay admission. A church should not profit from admission.”
I had heard this sentiment before. The admission price didn’t bother me, though, because the churches and historic sites that charge it must care for their collections, and this can be costly.
“You can tell me how it is,” he said.
I had never been to a Gothic cathedral before. The outside is nothing less than spectacular.
The interior can be just as overwhelming
Vaults, arches, marble, sculptures and more. All of it designed to draw the eye upward, to heaven, to the Light of the World
Works of art meet the eye in all directions
Even stairways are fantastic
But pathos lurks amidst the beauty. Note the upper right hand corner of the below shot, just above the chandelier.
It is known as the Flycatcher. A figure made in Germany, it rings a bell on the hour, and its mouth opens as if to catch flies. Forgive the blurry picture below.
It is, dare I say it? Creepy. But it is not the only creepy thing in the cathedral. There are crypts, because medieval people wanted to be as close as possible to the sacred in cathedrals, hoping it would wear off on them, even after death.
That is why the bones of saints were kept and revered, like this piece of an arm
Still, the opulence all around can leave one flat. How many mouths would have been fed from the cost of this incredible place? It is clear that while it was created ostensibly for spiritual reasons, it was also meant to communicate worldly magnificence. Burgos was the capital of Castile and Leon.
Back at the Divina Pastora, the Italian man said, “Well, how was it?”
“Just fantastic!” I gushed. I handed him my camera so that he could look at the photos.
“What do you think?” I asked when he was done.
“I should have gone,” he said, frowning a bit.
I could not argue with him there.
If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.