Santo Domingo de Silos

The monastery where a Riojan became a Castilian Saint

This Benedictine Monastery is famous for its Romanesque cloister and for the voices of its monks that in the nineties recovered the Gregorian singing and got two platinum discs sold all over the world.

Plan your visit to Silos

The things to visit in Santo Domingo de Silos can be visited in a few hours; in the afternoon it is possible to spend the afternoon in the natural space of La Yecla and the Sabinares de Arlanza. Given the fact that it is the place with more options to eat and sleep in this area of Burgos it is the base for doing active tourism or going hicking in the incredible and not very frequented Natural Park of the Glacial Lagoons of Neila. It may be a good idea to go to the legendary locality of Salas de Los Infantes to see its small dinosaur museum. In the journey back to Burgos or Madrid you can also spend two hours visiting Lerma.

Do you want to visit this place?

From before the VII Century, in a spot of the Tabladillo valley called Silos, there was a monastery dedicated to San Sebastián. During the muslim ocupation of the area, we stopped having news of it but at the end ofthe X Century the Monastery of San Sebastián de Silos was restores and refounded by the Castilian Count Fernán González who later on, suffered the ravage of Almanzor. In the year 1040, the well known benedictine monk Domingo (prior of the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla) refused to follow the rules of his king (García Sanchez III of Navarra) and scaped to the Kingdom of Castile where he built a strong relationship with the king Fernando I of León who commissioned him the relaunch of the ruined monastery of San Sebastián de Silos.

With great success, Domingo was in charge of the construction of the church and the cloister until his death in 1073. He was a very saint man who even got a mystic vision of the virgin Mary who predicted three days in advanced his death. He was buried in the abbey that he directed in the midst of a sanctity reputation that made it possible for him to be canonized only three years after his death. In 1088 the Abbot Fortunio consecrated the temple so the building, along with the tomb, iniciated different pilmgrinages to the monastery to pray there. In 1177 one of the pilgrims was the noble Castilian Juana de Aza who decided to call her son Domingo (the future Santo Domingo de Guzmán).

From the copyists and illustrators of their scriptorium the codex of the Beato de Silos came out and can be found today at the British Museum.

In 1512, the silense monastery adheres to the Benedictine Congregation of Valladolid. The modern monastery grew along the medieval: wall, south wing for the individual cells of the monks; the chapel of Santo Domingo… Finally, in the XVIII Century the famous architect Ventura Rodriguez extended the primitive Romanesque church by the baroque-neoclassical of today. The monastery maintained its validity until November 17, 1835, when the monks were dispossessed of all their property, so they had to leave the building.

Códice del Beato de Silos, en el British Museum
Códice del Beato de Silos, conservado en el British Museum

It was again inhabited in 1881 by Benedictine monks from the French Abbey of Ligugé, led by an abbot from Solesmes who were able to turn it into one of the main centers of the Catholic liturgy that stands out for the maintenance of the Gregorian chant. The housing area affected in 1970 by a fire was restored by the architects Alberto García Gil and Julia Fernández de Caleya. Since then, an incessant activity has continued.

It has also irradiated its influence through the founding of new houses in Estíbaliz (Álava), Montserrat (Madrid), Leyre (Navarra), the Abbey of Santa Cruz in the Valley of the Fallen (Madrid) and in Mexico and Argentina

The main attraction to visit Santo Domingo de Silos is the extraordinary romantic Cloister. It is accessed by the arch of the Virgins, a remnant of the original church. It is an area of great harmony despite its asymmetric arrangement in the shape of an irregular rectangle. It was built during the XI century and consists of two floors with arcades raised on double columns. It has 64 chapiters, decorated in the lower level, which are due to two different artists despite maintaining a certain unity. Animal motifs abound (lions, eagles, flamingos and many types of birds), mythological beings (harpies, goblins, taps, centaurs and geniecillos), baskets with flowers and fruits, acanthus foliage… Many of them, specially the ones of the east wing of the cloister, are sculpted with sinuous lines and crowned by abacos adorned with geometric designs and intertwined, which shows its Eastern and Islamic influence. The bas-reliefs at the corners represent scenes from the life of Christ.

The late and neoclassical Baroque cloister has greater simplicity. The ceiling of its galleries is covered with 14th-century Mudejar coffered ceilings that preserve their Gothic polychrome of gallant, hunting and satirical scenes. In the northeastern corner you can admire the Virgin of March of the XIIII century carved in stone and polychrome. In the center of the north gallery there is the primitive sepulcher of Santo Domingo, excavated in the rock, preceded by a recumbent statue held by 13th century lions. And on one side of the garden stands that cypress that Gerardo Diego loved with his famous sonnet.

El Ciprés de Silos

“Enhiesto surtidor de sombra y sueño
que acongojas el cielo con tu lanza.
Chorro que a las estrellas casi alcanza
devanado así mismo en loco empeño.
Mástil de soledad, prodigio isleño,
flecha de fe, saeta de esperanza.
Hoy llegó a ti, riberas del Arlanza,
peregrina al azar, mi alma sin dueño.
Cuando te vi señero, dulce, firme,
qué ansiedades sentí de diluirme
y ascender como tú, vuelto en cristales,
como tú, negra torre de arduos filos,
ejemplo de delirios verticales,
mudo ciprés en el fervor de Silos”

It is also possible to visit the Botica from the XVII century which has a collection of ceramic jars from Talavera de la Reina.

The museum has different rooms with liturgical objects, Gothic and Flemish tables, sculptures in polychrome stone, medieval sarcophagi and manuscripts. In gold work highlights the chalice of Santo Domingo de Silos (11th century), the reliquary box s. XII-XIII), the Cross with gems (13th century) and the processional Custody (16th century). In sculpture the Romanesque tympanum of the twelfth century of the primitive construction that represents the Birth, Presentation and Adoration of the Kings and the carving of Santa Ana, the Virgin and Child of the fourteenth century.

The Church, built on Ventura Rodríguez’s project between 1752 and 1790, is neoclassical. In it you can hear the Gregorian chant of the Divine Office, the most appropriate to imbue the fervor of Silos; every morning, at the nine o’clock mass, and on Sundays at the twelve o’clock mass.

In addition, the entrance to the Monastery includes a visit to the Museum of the Sounds of the Earth, in the old rehabilitated Casa Cárcel. There the Association of Friends of Silos has gathered a hundred musical instruments from different times and origins including the oldest in the region: the rattle, the ocarina, the shearing and the rabel.

Monstruos entre follaje en un capitel románico del claustro

In the Town Hall there is an Information Office about the natural area of Yecla, a gorge that can be found two kilometers away and that allows you to see a chasm overflown by raptors.

Silos has a very famous men hostel that has become a place to pray and reflect and to which many famous people go looking for inspiration.

Some kilometers away there is the village of Caleruega, home of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, where you can visit the Monumental Complex of Santo Domingo.  It is composed by the Romanesque Parish of San Sebastián (12th century), where the saint was baptized and where the tomb of his mother is; there is also the Convent of the Dominicans and the Royal Monastery of Santo Domingo de Caleruega, run by Dominican nuns. Finally there is also a very important chuch: Santo Domingo’s Church, with stunning altarpieces and tombs.


Practical Data


41º 57’ 45’’N, 3º 25’ 11’’W


Madrid 200 km

Nearby destinations

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