Salamanca is the most elegant city in Spain, famous for its University and beautiful architecture which comprises of a golden coloured sandstone referred to as the Plateresque architectural style. Its streets and hidden-away corners provide the traveller with a host of surprises fitting for its UNESCO world heritage status.
A good place to start is at the “Puente Romano” where pilgrims cross the River Tormes on the pilgrimage route the Silver Way from Seville. Admire the majestic skyline of the city dominated by what Unamuno called “a forest of lofty towers” of Romanesque origin.The six most important are the Churches of San Martín, San Marcos (with its circular ground plan), Santo Tomás de Canterbury (built by English settlers), San Cristóbal, San Juan de Barbalos and Santiago (St. James). The latter is a Mudéjar brick construction standing next to the bridge.
Then head for the highest point of the city where stands one of the most beautiful cathedrals of Spanish-Romanesque architecture: the so-called Old and New Cathedrals. Outside stands the imposing El Gallo Tower while inside can be found some truly outstanding gems (eg, its reredos, tombs and cloisters). There is also a delightful museum which contains many important paintings. In addition, there are several beautiful chapels, including that of Anaya with a marvellous railing around the tomb, and that of Santa Bárbara.
The University was built in 1218 by order of King Alfonso IX. The very soul of Salamanca is to be encountered in its faculties and libraries. It’s multitude of colleges include the famous Fonseca College and that of Los Irlandeses (the Irish) with its delightful Renaissance courtyard and a chapel with a reredos by Berruguete. In addition, there’s a large number of convents like the great Convent of San Esteban, where Columbus stayed. In the church one can admire the tomb of the Duke of Alba and the magnificent Baroque reredos that was the work of Churriguera. The convent itself has a fine staircase and a splendid Plateresque courtyard. Yet another courtyard in Plateresque style, can be visited in the Convent of Las Dueñas which stands opposite the Convent of San Esteban. The Jesuits constructed their own theological and juridical College and in the 17th Century they were to build the magnificent Baroque Seminary (La Clerecía),which has a large church with a fine dome, as well as a splendid ensemble of other constructions around the later’s enormous courtyard. Today they form what is known as the Pontifical University. Opposite is the city’s most distinctive building, the 16th century mansion house,Casa de las Conchas,with rows of carved scallops shells,symbols of the Camino de Santiago.
Calatrava College (now the Seminary) also belongs to the beautiful Baroque period and was the work of Churriguera, whereas the Church of Las Agustinas located opposite Monterrey Palace is an outstanding example of 17C Ecclesiastical Baroque. It preserves the famous work by Ribera depicting the Immaculate Conception. Anaya College was built in the 18th Century in the Neoclassical style. It stands on the other side of the Cathedral and preserves a bust of Unamuno that was the work of Victorio Macho.
There are also many sculptures which remind us of the close ties between Salamanca and the most important figures of Spanish intellectual history to be found in the city’s many squares: eg, that of Christopher Columbus, Santa Teresa, Nebrija and Miguel de Unamuno.
Then there’s the marvellous 18th century Plaza Mayor perhaps best seen at night. An architectural masterpiece unrivalled anywhere in Europe of great beauty and an important aspect of the day-to-day life of the city. A good place for watching the people go by and to rest and have a tapa. Visit too the House of Lis which is an interesting Modernist structure and a fine example of architecture in iron.
Area: 38.6 km²
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