The legend of the flycatcher in Burgos Cathedral

This is one of the most beloved characters in the city and is almost as famous as the building that houses it

The Flycatcher is an automaton that can be found in Burgos Cathedral, and it is safe to say that it enjoys as much fame as the cathedral.

If you visit the cathedral, you will find it located at the beginning of the central nave, on your left as you enter from the main façade. At a height of 15 metres from the ground and crowning the pointed arch of a window above the Gothic triforium, you will find it there.

The flycatcher in Burgos Cathedral. Courtesy of Burgos tourist guides.

What is the Flycatcher? A half-bodied human figure that emerges from the face of a clock. And what is surprising about him is his rather grotesque face, with somewhat demonic features and a goatee. Completing this startling vision is a red coat with a wide collar – quite striking – and a green belt.

And what does he do? Every hour, he grasps the chain of a bell clapper and rings it, opening and closing his mouth at the same time. Isn’t that peculiar, isn’t it?
Now, where does it get its name from? From the Pied Flycatcher, which keeps its mouth open waiting for flies to enter it. That’s why the best time of day to see it is midday, because it plays as many times as it opens its mouth.

The flycatcher in Burgos Cathedral. Courtesy of Burgos tourist guides.

In addition, the flycatcher is accompanied by a faithful and inseparable helper: the Martinillo. In this case, it is a full-length figure surrounded by two bells and holding a hammer in each hand. In this way, he signals the quarter of an hour with one, two, three or four strokes, as appropriate.


Is anything known about its origin? According to the existing documentation, it is believed that it already existed in the 16th century, so 1519 is the most likely year of its manufacture, and that it may have come from the workshop of Venetian clockmakers.

SOURCE: Burgos tourist guides



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