'An eyesore': thousands protest against Spanish cathedral's new doors

Planned update to Burgos Cathedral prompts online petition signed by more than 31,000 people

Plans to mark the 800th anniversary of Burgos’s magnificent gothic cathedral with three enormous new bronze doors have ushered in an unholy row, with Unesco advising against the project and critics attacking the €1.2m portals as an “artistic outrage”.

Cathedral authorities in the northern Spanish city say the new doors, designed by the renowned, award-winning artist Antonio López, are a work of contemporary art that will complement “a monument already rendered in five artistic styles that are the fruit of each stage of its eight centuries”. They also point out that the current wooden doors are old and in a poor state of repair.

But not everyone is enamoured of the new doors, which show God the Father, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus as a young child.

Unesco’s World Heritage Centre, acting on a report by the Spanish branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), has recommended against installing the bronze doors.

Icomos points out that Burgos Cathedral’s status as a world heritage site means the cathedral authorities will need to “accept the consequences that could result from failing to live up to their commitments to safeguard the cathedral as a place of outstanding universal value”.

More than 31,000 people have signed an angry petition attacking the new doors as “an eyesore however you look at them” and claiming “no anniversary warrants such ill treatment of our heritage”.

Virtual tour illustrations of the doors of the Burgos cathedral proposed by Antonio López.
Virtual tour illustrations of the doors of the Burgos Cathedral proposed by Antonio López. Photograph: Archidiocesis Burgos

The petition questions whether the new doors are the best use of such a large sum of money, adding: “Given the queues of hungry people we’re seeing, and the fact that the cathedral doesn’t even have central heating – which is no laughing matter in Burgos – why is the archbishopric spending €1.2m on this?”

The cathedral authorities hit back in a statement this week, accusing opponents of waging “a campaign of defamation” and insisting the project was being conducted with “absolute transparency” and a scrupulous respect for heritage guidelines.

The cathedral and the city council flatly denied suggestions that the council had contributed €800,000 to the new doors, insisting that no public money had been used. The cathedral also pointed out that Icomos’s views were non-binding, adding: “This wouldn’t be the first time that Icomos has produced an unfavourable report on cultural heritage projects that have still gone ahead.”

The final decision on the new doors will be taken by the culture department of the government of Castilla y León, the Spanish region in which Burgos sits.

While they wait, the cathedral authorities are hoping that public opinion will swing behind the new doors, which, they say, offer “a unique opportunity to open art, the cathedral and the city” to the rest of the world.

“This is an opportunity to connect the city with the future and to make history with these new doors, which the cathedral needs, and which will be a symbol of union and a legacy for future generations.”

And besides, they add: “Who now could conceive of the Louvre without its pyramid or the German parliament without its glass dome?”


Sam Jones Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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