Today we drove out to the university town of Salamanca in the north-western part of Spain. I expected a small town like Cambridge, but it is actually quite a sprawling town.
Our first stop, after a quick snack was the cathedrals. It is actually composed of two cathedrals, aptly named the new cathedral (Catedral Nueva) and the old cathedral.
The new cathedral’s construction began in the 16th century but was not completed until the 18th century which is why it culminates in a range of architecture from Gothic, Plateresque and Baroque. One of the cathedral’s most notable features is its 110 metre high tower, topped with a beautiful dome.
The new cathedral houses an exhibition of contemporary religious artwork featuring Jesus’s life.
The two cathedrals are linked and you move seamlessly into the old cathedral. The old cathedral was constructed in Romanesque style between 1100 and 1200 AD. Probably the most notable feature of the church is the rerdos with 53 scenes illustrating the life of Jesus. But what I like best was the small painting above the rerdos of Jesus’s judgement where below him there are a group of people dressed in white that are going to heaven and then another naked group of people walking into a serpent’s mouth entering hell.
Leaving the cathedral you enter the area of the Salamander University, which was Spain’s first university. The university was built in 1218 and modeled after the university in Bologna in Italy. During the middle ages the university was one of Europe’s most important learning centers. The university continued to grow between the 15th to 18th centuries with additional buildings added. Salamander, like Oxford and Cambridge is a university town and attracts not only Spanish students but also a lot of foreign ones.
Walking through the old part of the city which is dominated by university buildings we passed the 17th century Baroque church, the Clerecia. Originally the Clerecia was both a church and a Jesuit ecclesiastic college, today it is the headquarters of Salamanca Pontificia University.
On our way to the market we did a detour to Casa de las Conchas or the House of Shells. The Renaissance palace was built in the 15th century for Talavera Maldonado, who was a knight of the Order of Santiago. The palace’s most notable feature is the 300 carved scallop shells that decorate its facade. Today the mansion now houses the Salamanca Public Library. Max and I revisited the palace later as it was the only place we could find that had a bathroom. The palace’s courtyard is also quite impressive with its arches and decorative frieze.
We had a wander around the market, expecting that it might sell tapas or have some food stalls, but it didn’t. So lunch was from one of the many shops selling iberico ham. Max and Ava sampled some Hornazo pie which is pie with layers of pork loin and chorizo, while Andrew and I had iberico baguettes.
We ended our tour of Salamanca by taking a walk down to the Roman Bridge for its wonderful views over both the old and new cathedrals.
The bridge spans the River Tomes and is believed to have been constructed during the 1st century AD under the Roman Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The bridge is 176 metres in length and is made up of 26 arches, it is a pedestrian only bridge.
Returning to the car park we passed the impressive Convento de San Esteban. We did not go inside, Ava had definitely seen enough C’s (churches) as she calls it, but it had a very elaborate facade with Plateresque decorations.
- Summer: April to September │ Daily: 10 am – 8 pm
- Winter: October to March │ Daily: 10 am – 6 pm
- 24th and 31st December: 10 am to 2 pm
- 1st January, 25th December: closed
Price: (includes the entrance for both the new and old cathedrals that are linked together and an audio guide)
- Adults: €5 │ Groups 20+ people, pensioners, students and unemployed: € 4 │ Children from 7 – 16 years: € 3 │ Unemployed: €1.50 (audio guide included)
House of Shells
- Monday to Friday: 9 am to 9 pm │ Saturday: 9 am to 2 pm/ 5 pm to 8 pm │ Sunday and Bank holidays: 10 am to 2 pm/ 5 pm to 8 pm
- Free entrance (its a public library so any one can enter and it has bathrooms)