Tag Archives: El Cid

Passing the centuries in Burgos

My friend Sue and I are now in the second week of our linguistic tour of northern Spain. Yesterday we hiked up to the fortress overlooking the city of Burgos and its Arlanzón River, and thus back in time to the early centuries of the Reconquista (details here). Today’s two excursions, to the Catedral de Burgos and the Monasterio de las Huelgas, carried us forward several centuries, through the era of El Cid, the political consolidation of most of Spain, and the successful pursuit of the Reconquista.

The Cathedral is built on a site of great linguistic interest: in 1080, the Council of Burgos took place in an earlier church at the same site. As described in this previous post, the purpose of the Council was to enforce the use of the Latin Mass in place of the vernacular that had sprung up in Spain. While touring the Cathedral today, I learned that just one year later, in 1081, the city of Burgos became the official seat (sede) for the province’s bishopric, or diocese. Clearly the Council had increased the city’s prestige: language matters! The first Cathedral of Burgos was built over the next fifteen years.

Informative sign from Catedral de Burgos, showing establishment of Burgos as religious seat one year after the Council of Burgos.

Another informative sign, dating the original Cathedral to within fifteen years of the Council of Burgos.

Today’s Cathedral is of further linguistic interest because it houses the tomb of El Cid, the Reconquista hero of the epic poem that is the first known work of Spanish literature. The tomb’s inscription includes the Latin version of El Cid’s name (Rodrigo > Rodericus) and that of his wife, buried with him (Jimena > Eximena). Above the cross you can also see a key line from the poem: a todos alcanza honra por el que en buen hora nació: very roughly, ‘everyone gained in honor because this good man lived’.

Tomb of El Cid and his wife Jimena in the Catedral de Burgos

Our second touristic destination of the day, Burgos’s Monasterio de las Huelgas, fast-forwarded us less than a century to the year 1187. The Monastery was founded by Queen Leonor, the British-born wife of Alfonso VIII of Castilla, and serves as a pantheon, or royal burial place, for this couple and their descendants. By Alfonso’s reign the Reconquista was going full blast, carrying the Castilian language with it. The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, a turning point in the Reconquista,  took place in 1212; a spectacular door hanging from the tent of Alfonso’s Moorish opponent, Muhámmad al-Násir, hangs in the Monastery’s Museo de Ricas Telas Medievales. It is a harbinger of the eventual fall of Granada at the hands of Alfonso and Leonor’s descendants, Ferdinand and Isabella, and thus the final victory of Castilian Spanish.

Pendón de Las Navas de Tolosa


Another day, another Cervantes museum

I titled this post last week, before leaving for my linguistic tour of northern Spain with my friend Sue. As it turned out, our visit to the Museo Casa de Cervantes in Valladolid was not the high point of the day, though we did appreciate its peaceful garden, and the reliefs depicting scenes from Don Quixote, such as this one. The museum is located in the building where Cervantes lived from 1604 to 1606; the first volume of Don Quijote was published in 1605.
IMG_20160619_115108Valladolid was our stopover en route from Salamanca to Burgos, and well worth a visit. Its star attraction is the Museo National de Escultura, an extraordinary collection of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque religious sculpture housed in a magnificent convent. My favorite sculpture depicted Saint Anne and her three husbands (!!!) with the Madonna and Child. The husbands were carved with great individuality and detail.

Close-up of the three husbands of Saint Anne. On my screen, WordPress is showing them vertically elongated. You can click through to see the museum's own reproduction, and can select the same detail.

Sculptural detail: the three husbands of Saint Anne.

While in Valladolid i noticed this nice example of the arroba neutra: the contemporary and controversial use of the @ sign in Spanish to create suffixes that are neither masculine nor feminine suffixes. (The sign translates as “Welcome refugees”.) Anybody know how something like this is pronounced out loud?


After leaving Valladolid it was exciting to arrive in Burgos, since this was the city that inspired my trip: Burgos is the cradle of the Castilian language (though in Salamanca we were told it was Salamanca!). Our hotel directly overlooks the city’s cathedral. Five minutes’ walk away is the famous statue of El Cid, Burgos’s hometown hero, which turns out to be in the middle of a busy traffic circle! I found this rather undignified. All the photographs I’ve seen of it show the Cid silhouetted against the sky, perhaps with a bit of building. Now I know they were carefully composed.

view from our window

View from Spanishlinguist.us’s hotel window in Burgos


El Cid and his horse in Burgos, juxtaposed with more modern transportation.

While out walking we unexpectedly came across a status of San Millán de la Cogolla, the saint whose linguistically significant monastery we will be visiting in a few days. Although San Millán was a cave-dwelling hermit, the statue depicts him as a conqueror, standing boldly atop a collection of severed heads. Wikipedia helpfully explains that “Because of the monastery’s role on the traditional pilgrimage route, representations of Emilianus can be mixed with that of Saint James the Moor-slayer.”


Statue of San Millán de la Cogolla, in park along Río Arlanzón between Puente de San Pablo and Puente de Santa María