Arco de Santa María

Pl. Rey San Fernando, 9, Burgos

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The Arch of Santa María is one of the twelve ancient access gates to the city in the Middle Ages. It connects the bridge of Santa María, over the river Arlanzón, with the Plaza del Rey San Fernando, where the cathedral stands.

Initially known as "Puerta de la puente de yuso", the current layout began its construction in the 14th-15th century, to which the entire interior, the tower and the façade facing the Cathedral belong. In the following century, specifically between 1536 and 1553, it was completely remodelled by Juan de Vallejo and Francisco de Colonia, giving rise to the entrance made of the typical white limestone from Burgos, this time from the quarries of Hontoria de la Cantera, which can be seen today. A simpler gate must have existed earlier, as the Poema del Mio Cid cites it as the point of entry and exit to and from the city used by the Cid when he was called upon for his warrior raids. The Arch was occupied by the Consistory of Burgos until the construction of the new Town Hall (the work of Fernando González de Lara) in the 18th century. Between 1878 and 1955 it housed the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Burgos and in 1943 it was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument.

It is currently open to the public as a Historic-Artistic Cultural Centre, with spaces for museums and temporary exhibitions.

The door was conceived as a great triumphal arch, with the organisation of a carved altarpiece or stone mantelpiece and with a crenellated top in the form of a small castle, which makes the whole a quite unique architectural monument. The six main niches, arranged in two sections and three lanes, contain important figures from the history of the city and Castile: the Judges of Castile (Nuño Rasura and Laín Calvo); the Counts Diego Rodríguez Porcelos, founder of the city, and Fernán González, the first independent Count of Castile; the Cid; and Emperor Charles I, to whom the city dedicated the Arch to ingratiate itself with him after the Communist revolts.
Arco de Santa Maria, Burgos par Juan Laurent, c. 1863, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC

Above them, with smaller bulges, are two municipal mace-bearers at the ends of a balustraded balcony and the guardian angel of Burgos holding a reproduction of the city. Above are four gargoyles that serve as drains. Presiding over everything is the Virgin Mary, patron saint of Burgos and defender of the city.

The author of the statues is the sculptor Ochoa de Arteaga. The wall is studded with loopholes, flanked by two cylindrical towers and topped by four decorative little squinches or sentry boxes.

The arch is covered with a ribbed vault, which is accessed through a semicircular arch, in whose intrados there are remains of allegorical paintings from the 17th century, on the main façade, and through another three-stitched arch on the rear façade. The rear façade, which is simple and dates from the 14th century, has a stone gallery under the roof, supported by wooden corbels.

Inside the Arch, stairs of medieval origin give access to the main hall, which has now been renovated, although it preserves a fragment of Mudejar plasterwork from the castle of Burgos; in this room there is a large mural by the Burgos painter José Vela Zanetti dedicated to Count Fernán González and the independence of Castile. The room, which occupies two floors, is enclosed by a glass wall decorated with the city's coat of arms.

From here you can access the Sala de Poridad, an octagonal room where the Burgos council met until 1780. This room has a beautiful Mudejar coffered ceiling. On its walls you can admire 16th-century paintings depicting the Emperor Charles V, Philip II and the Castilian heroes Fernán González, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, and the judges Laín Calvo and Nuño Rasura, set as an example of good government in the place where the councillors of the Burgos Council used to meet.

It houses interesting historical objects that remind us of Burgos' status as the Head of Castile: the painting "El Cid and Doña Jimena" by the Burgos artist Marceliano Santa María; a bone of the Cid Campeador; the standard measure of the Castilian rod; the old armoured door of access to the archive of the Arch; the armchair in which the legendary Castilian judges sat to administer justice; a reproduction of the sword Tizona del Cid, the work of the goldsmith Maese Calvo, who is also the author of beautiful circular coats of arms dedicated to the Cid and Count Fernán González; a gold-embroidered banner of Castile and other varied objects belonging to the City Council can be seen. From this room you can access one of the cylindrical towers on the outside.

On the upper floor, accessible by a spiral staircase, is the Pharmacy Museum in a small room. The collection of apothecary jars comes from the now disappeared Hospital de San Juan, whose apothecary's shop was one of the most important in Spain, run by pharmacists such as Fray Tomás de Paredes and Fray Esteban de Villa.

Article obtained from Wikipedia article Wikipedia in his version of 23/07/2022, by various authors under the license Licencia de Documentación Libre GNU.