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The marriage ceremony took place in 1219 in the old cathedral, which shortly thereafter was torn down. Two years later Ferdinand laid the first stone for the present Santa Maria.
Although enough of the building was completed in only nine years to enable services to be held, the final touch, Burgos’ octagonal dome, was not finished until 1568. Despite this lapse of time, there is a certain stylistic unity to the towers and pinnacles, largely because the architects during the last stages of construction represented three generations of the same family.
The early cupola above the crossing collapsed in the sixteenth century, coinciding with Burgos’ decline as a political center and leading many people to surmise that both events stemmed from the same causes. Although the town’s importance waned, its cathedral was later to become the recipient of a most important set of relics. During the Peninsular War in the early nineteenth century, El Cid’s tomb in San Pedro de Cardena was ransacked and some of his bones wound up in Germany. Alfonso xn, however, later secured their return to Spain, and in 192 1 they were placed in the cathedral.
The effect of Burgos’ profusion of sculptures, considered among the most ornate and perfect in Europe, was flamboyantly described by the aforementioned De Amicis : “On whatever side you turn your eyes, you meet eyes that are gazing at you, hands that are beckoning you, cherub heads that are peeping at you, scarves that seem to wave, clouds that appear to rise, crystal suns that seem to tremble; an infinite variety of forms, colors and reflections that dazzle your eyes and confuse your brain.” To the historian John Allyne Gade, this was a bit overdone; to him Burgos seemed “more emotional than sensitive. Riotous excess and empty display take the place of restrained and appropriate decoration.”