Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (I)

Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (I)
Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (I)

The Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is, without a doubt, one of the most important monastic remains that have survived to this day. Today, the monastery is located in the small town that bears its name in one of the valleys of the Sierra de la Demanda, province of Burgos.

The first news of this monastery is from the 7th century, in which the dedication of the temple was not Santo Domingo but San Sebastián and its activity was intermittent due to the continuous fights between Christians and Muslims.


It was around the 11th century when the Castilian monarch Ferdinand I commissioned Santo Domingo – abbot of the important monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla- to move to Silos to restore in the monastic life in the monastery.

The abbot brought greatness to Silos in such a way that the monastery became in a few years one of the most important communities of the Castilian-Leonese crown. Construction began on a primitive Romanesque church with three naves and the monastery's scriptorium became one of the most famous in the entire Peninsula. With the death of Santo Domingo in 1073, the monastery began to receive multitudes of pilgrims, consecrating itself as a source of pilgrimage.

The successor of Santo Domingo, Abbot Fortunio, gave the Romanesque temple a tri-apsidal head and a transept marked inplant. Under his patronage, one of the most important parts of the monastery, its famous Romanesque-style cloister, was also begun.

It was in the 18th century when, due to spatial needs, the architect and restorer Ventura Rodríguez was commissioned to expand the Romanesque temple; Ventura, following the aesthetics and stylistic parameters that he ruled at that time, decided to demolish the Romanesque temple and start a new construction in neoclassical style. The new church -still preserved today- was sober and simple with a centralized plan and covered by a dome. The cloister, which was to suffer the same fate, was retained due to financial problems.

Thus, only a few pillars and capitals, a part of the transept and the access door that connects the temple with the cloister, La Puerta de las Virgenes. It is a flared door with a horseshoe arch that follows the influences of Islamic architecture. The flaring is not done with horseshoe arches but with widely spaced semicircular arches; the columns are profusely worked both in the shafts with geometric themes and in the capitals.


The four capitals show a strange iconography that is not related at all to the rest of the cloister: In one of the capitals two men can be seen sharing a head and pulling their beards while genuflecting, in another capital you can see an angel looking straight ahead, two men holdingtwo lions and in the last of the capitals two men can be seen holding another by the arm.

During the disentailment, life in the monastery was interrupted to be restored around 1880 thanks to a community of French Benedictine monks.

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