Salamanca. Architectural gems and a legendary university in the depths of Castile
Salamanca. The city with the first “Universitas”
Salamanca is located in the depths of Castile, out of the routes that unite the most famous cities of Spain. So it doesn’t have so many visitors as these. Very unjustly, because it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and beyond.
Salamanca is best known for its university. It was officially founded in 1218 but worked effectively since about 1130. It’s the oldest university in Spain and the fourth oldest in the Western world. But it was the first that took the title “universitas” by Pope Alexander IV in 1254. The title meant that its degrees had global (universalis) recognition.
The university of Salamanca became one of the leading cultural institutions of the Western world. Big names of Spain taught or studied here.
The Salamanca university buildings. They are around the Patio de Escuelas (Courtyard of Schools)
The apogee of plateresco
Salamanca, however, is not only known for its university. In the 16th century the best examples of the style named plateresco were created here. It’s the Spanish version of the Renaissance. The style is called like this because its ornate decorations remind of silversmiths’ works (plata means silver).
The university’s entrance in plateresco style
In the Courtyard of Schools there’s also the Museum of Salamanca, a Gothic building with Renaissance details
Therefore, today Salamanca offers a supreme cultural institution and a set of the most important monuments of the Spanish Renaissance. At the same time, thanks to the multitude of its students, it’s a very lively city.
So, it’s worth going off the classic tourist routes that leave it outside due to its location and visiting.
The roman bridge
The city with the two cathedrals
Salamanca has two cathedrals. The old one is Romanesque, dating from the 12th century. The new one was built from the 16th to the 18th century. So it combines many styles: Gothic, Renaissance (plateresco) and Baroque. The point of junction of the two buildings is the Patio Chico (small yard). It’s one of the city’s most picturesque corners.
The new cathedral
The point of junction of the two cathedrals. The old one is on the left
The altar of the old cathedral, under a Final Judgment (15th century). Source: Cruccone (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 es (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/es/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
The rest of the monuments
The College of the Jesuits (Clerecia), dating from the 17th century
On the left, the Clerecia. On the right, the Casa de las Conchas (House of Seashells). Its facade is decorated with about 400 seashells. The seashells are symbols of Saint James, patron of Spain
The courtyard of the Clerecia
The Clerecia from the other side
Convent de las Dueñas (15th century). It has a characteristic irregular Renaissance courtyard
Dominican monastery of San Esteban (Saint Stephen, 16th century). The facade of the church, in plateresco style, is a masterpiece of the Spanish Renaissance
Church of the Holy Spirit
The Plaza Mayor, the town’s main square (18th century). It’s the work of Churriguera brothers, from the famous family of sculptors and architects. They gave to churrigueresco style its name, which suggests the Spanish Baroque
The Romanesque church of San Marcos (12th century)
The house of Saint Theresa. Here stayed the most important Spanish saint when she visited Salamanca in 1570
Casa de las Muertes (House of Deaths, 16th century, again plateresco). It’s called like this because of the skulls on the facade
Monterrey Palace (16th century). Another sample of plateresco, typical building of the Spanish Renaissance
The photos give only an idea of this town – gem. You have to go and see it to fully realise its value. So rush!
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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