26-09-2008  

A Stroll Through the Historical Center of Salmanca

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Our walk starts at the Plaza Mayor, constructed in the 18th century, it is located in the heart of Salamanca. This vital center of the city fills with busltling activity every day. A friendly atmosphere full of light, it provides the visitor with a good feeling and attracts all kinds of people like a magnet with its good vibes. 

When it rains the center of the plaza is deserted and the arches are full of people walking towards their destination under the protection of the overhang. At night the ilumination of the Plaza is marvellous and gives a sensation of power and an impression that the plaza is much bigger and full of life than during the day.  


If you stop a moment in the Plaza and close your eyes, the noise and bustle of the crowds begins to sound like a rush of water. It is also fun to watch the people waiting under the clock, a typical meeting place, and see the expressions of impatients on their faces as they await the arrival of a friend, an acquaintance, girlfriend or boyfriend. But the best part is eating an ice cream at one of the many terrace-cafes while you watch.  

To continue our visit to the center of Salamanca we leave the plaza through an arch that leads to the Plaza del Corillo and walk towards the Rúa Mayor. You pass by the Iglesia de San Martín (San Martín church) to the left with its splendid 12th century façade. In the distance you can see the clock and the gothic tower of the New cathedral. Passing through the multitud of restaurants and tourist shops you arrive to the Rúa Antigua. 

On one side is the sculpture of Maestro Salinas and to the other side you discover the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells). This mansion can be considered one of the most representative of architecture of the period of the Catholic Kings.

It first belonged to the Maldonado family, but later was owned by a profesor of medicine at the university, having been recently made Chancellor of the Order of “Santiago”, decorated the exterior with 350 small “concha” shell decorations in relief that cover the surface. The scallop shell motif is the symbol of the Order of Saint James. Today this building houses the public library and a toursit office. The number 14 is important in the interior of the building: there is a decorative square patio with 14 interlaced columns, with 14 lions, 14 arches and 14 devils that peer despisingly down at you. In the center there is a well full of coins that people left behind to make a  wish. The patio is also decorated with family shields and Flor de Lis, among other ornamentation. A decorative staircase leads us upstair to an exhibition hall with a precious artistic ceiling. Just to see this building makes the trip to Salamanca worthwhile!

Leaving through the door that leads to the Calle Compañía, you find the immense La Clerecía, a series of buildings comprised of the church and the Universidad Pontifica which pertains to the order of the Jesuits. Crossing the Plaza de San Isidro and continuing down the Calle Libreros we find the famous frontspiece of the University in the Patio de Escuelas, one of the finest works of Classical Plateresque. You will often find many tourists contemplating this marvellous sight, and earnestly searching for the frog over the expanse of the building. The frog symbolizes lust, and, associated with the skull it sits on, represents the fleetingness of the pleasures of the flesh.

Next we visit the two cathedrals, the Catedral Nueva and the Catedral Vieja. At the beginning of the 16th century the new cathedral was built conserving the old in the same place, giving Salamanca the privelege of having 2 cathedrals.  
The main façade of the New Cathedral has four large arches and is adorned by a Spanish flamenco decoration. If you approach the west entrance of the new cathedral and take a careful look at the different and various figures in relief you will be surprizingly rewarded by the curious sight of a small astronaut that seems a bit out of place among the more traditional ornamentation. This figure, among others, was added in a recent renovation. The interior of the cathedral is impressive for its dimentions as well as its elegance and harmony. The Old Cathedral, dating for the 12th century, is of Spanish Romanesque style. Three naves with ribbed vault ceilings form the structure of this church in the shape of the latin cross. Also of note is the cupola also known as the Torre del Gallo.
In front of the New Cathedral is the Plaza de Anaya, this tranquil space with trees and benches invites you to stop and rest before continuing on to visit to other places in Salamanca. The Villamayor stone used to construct the majority of these buildings gives a golden tone to the area as the sunlight reflects on them at dawn or dusk.

Finishing our walk with a coffee in the Plaza Mayor, we return to Escuela Internacional to continue our day, and continue studying Spanish and learning about this magical city.

 


Escuela Internacional Central Registration Office
C/ Talamanca, 10, 28807 Alcala de Henares (Madrid), Spain
Telephone: +34 91 883 12 64, Fax: +34 91 883 13 01
e-mail: info@escuelai.com