Salamanca, the Castilian jewel :
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Salamanca, the Castilian jewel
Salamanca, the Castilian jewelPedestrian, 2 km, 1 day
Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. After exploring the famous vineyards of Ribera del Duero, near Valladolid, a visit to this famous university city, that houses perhaps the most amazing Cathedrals in the country, is a must.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
The heart of Salamanca life, the Plaza Mayor is surrounded by myriad cafés, restaurants and shops, and provides the perfect setting for a drink or a stroll. Built by Philip V between 1729 and 1755 to thank the city for its loyalty during the War of the Spanish Succession, it is renowned for its perfect symmetry and architectural harmony. Admire its arcaded galleries, the pedimented fronts of the town hall, and the royal pavilion crowned by the bust of Philip V.
Built around 1490, the façade of the House of Shells is decorated with over 300 scallop shells. The presence of this motif is explained by the fact that Don Rodrigo Arias Maldonado was a knight of the Order of St James. Admire the patio, a jewel of Isabelline Gothic architecture, with its double gallery of arcades decorated with lions and coats of arms, supported on its lower section by pillars, and on its upper level by columns sculpted in Italy. The building is now home to a public library.
This small square leading off the old Calle Libreros is surrounded by typical monuments in the Salamancan Plateresque style. It is home to the university, founded in 1218 and which boasted 7 683 students in 1568 (30 000 in 2007), a record for the time. Once through the majestic doorway and Gothic entrance hall, you reach the patio. Inside, admire the great hall hung with tapestries from Brussels where official ceremonies were held. On the first floor, the Baroque library, renovated in the 18C, contains over 40 000 books.
The builders of the New Cathedral luckily respected the Old Cathedral that stands by its side. It seems like a good example of a romanesque cathedral, and the lantern tower, with two levels of windows, is one of the most beautiful of its kind. The Chapel of San Martin is decorated with 13C frescos. The grand retable in the central apse is made up of 53 compartments with surprisingly fresh colours and fine detail.
The cathedral’s construction lasted more than two centuries, which explains its variety of styles (Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque). The west front is divided by four large arches that correspond to the interior plan of the church. The north doorway is decorated with a delicate bas-relief illustrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The interior is notable for its fine vaulting, delicate cornices and sweeping pillars.
The convent was founded in 1419 to accommodate the sisters of the Dominican order. Renaissance in style, the cloisters, remodelled in the 16C to enable the expansion of the complex, are octagonal in shape and arranged on two floors. The capitals, particularly those on the second level, are adorned with strikingly forceful high-reliefs depicting fantastical creatures and frightening devils, as well as medallions bearing the majestic heads of old men and graceful feminine faces.
The first stone was laid here on 29 June 1524. The pinnacles on the side buttresses are Gothic, while the imposing façade is a remarkable example of the Plateresque style. The tour starts in the Kings’ cloisters, decorated with medallions in which the kings of Israel are represented. The church, which is striking for its sense of space, contains a large altarpiece, a masterpiece by José Churriguera.