The late thirteenth century was an era of prosperity in medieval Spain, epitomized by cathedral building and the founding of universities. This funerary sculpture portraying Don Sancho Saiz Carillo, who died in 1210, dates from that great epoch.
Don Sancho was a magnate of the region of Mahamud in the province of Burgos; he is shown wearing the accoutrements of a gallant knight: sword, chain, ring, gauntlets, and a spur on his right foot. The sculpture once topped a low wooden casket, which was set on a stone platform and placed before an arched niche in the Ermita de San Andrés. The wooden effigy was originally decorated with vibrant colors and gilding, a few traces of which remain. The casket was painted with the arms of Don Sancho and scenes from the life of Christ: the Nativity, the Dormition and Coronation of the Virgin, the Crucifixion, and Christ in Majesty. The tomb was disassembled in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century, and the painted panels are now in the Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona. The two most impressive panels show processions of mourning figures depicted in an exceptionally vivid style.
Even removed from its original context the recumbent effigy possesses a powerful presence. Its narrow, elongated proportions demonstrate French influence, which found its way to Mahamud via the pilgrimage route known as the "camino francés," or French Highway. The bold carving and angular, simplified folds of the draperies give Don Sancho a dignity and authority befitting his noble stature.