Salamanca is the capital of the province of the same name in the autonomous region of Castilla y León, where it is situated on the River Tormes. It is the setting for one of the oldest universities in Spain (hence the proverb “What nature doesn’t supply, Salamanca doesn’t provide”) and is known for its fine architectural heritage built of the golden stone of Villamayor. The city was founded as a Vaccean fortress in the 8th century B.C. with the name of Salmantica, and was known by Hannibal’s Carthaginian conquerors as Helmantiké. During the Roman occupation it was an important communication centre thanks to the ford that formed next to the river, which was crossed by one of the most important roads in the empire, the Vía de la Plata. The Romans were succeeded by the Alani, the Visigoths, and the Muslims, who arrived in 712 led by Musa ibn Nusair. After several Christian conquests and reconquests, Salamanca again became part of the Kingdom of Castilla y León after the battle of Simancas in 939, and acquired great cultural importance with the founding of its university in 1255 by King Alfonso IX. In 1988 it was named a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and is one of the most important Place s in the world for the teaching of Spanish.
|month||average temperature||average precipitation||month||average temperature||average precipitation|
|January||4ºC / 39ºF||35.5 mm / 1.40 in||July||21ºC / 70ºF||18 mm / 0.70 in|
|February||6ºC / 42ºF||35.5 mm / 1.40 in||August||21ºC / 69ºF||10 mm / 0.40 in|
|March||7ºC / 45ºF||28 mm / 1.10 in||September||18ºC / 64ºF||33 mm / 1.30 in|
|April||9ºC / 49ºF||38 mm / 1.50 in||October||12ºC / 54ºF||35.5 mm / 1.40 in|
|May||13ºC / 56ºF||40.5 mm / 1.60 in||November||7ºC / 45ºF||46 mm / 1.80 in|
|June||18ºC / 64ºF||35.5 mm / 1.40 in||December||4ºC / 39ºF||35.5 mm / 1.40 in|
ROAD ACCESS TO SALAMANCA:
GASTRONOMY OF SALAMANCA
Lentils are produced in the district of La Armuña in the north-west of the province. It seems that the Romans introduced this pulse to the area, which is characterised by its flattened shape and its mottled green colour. Once they are cooked the grains do not separate from the skin. Lentils are rich in protein, fibre, iron, and calcium.
The hornazo is a large meat pie of chorizo, ham, bacon, pork, and boiled egg. It is widely eaten on the Monday after that of Easter, the Lunes de Aguas, in memory of the times when university students went out to receive the prostitutes who were returning from the neighbouring village of Tejares.
Farinato is a long sausage of breadcrumbs, pork fat, and spices, which is generally eaten at mid-morning. It is fried in small pieces in lard and accompanied by fried eggs.
An indisputable point of reference of the gastronomy of Salamanca is ham from Guijuelo, whose pigs feed naturally on acorns. Sweetmeats include the upland cherries and morello cherries, the bollo maimón, wafers, eggs yolks with sugar, perrunillas, pestiños (honey-coated fritters), moritos, paciencias, chochos and turrón (nougat) from La Alberca.
AN ELUSIVE FROG
What does everyone look for on the façade of Salamanca University? New arrivals find it hard to find the tiny frog, which is perched on one of the small skulls that finish off the right capital on the first level of the façade. According to legend the student who finds it unaided will pass his/her exams and will get married. Patience and good eyesight are necessary, but it is there.
The plateresque façade rises above a double door of segmental arches and divides into three horizontal sections crossed by three vertical streets. The first section is characterised by a medallion dedicated to the Catholic Monarchs. The second has a coat of arms of Charles V with the two-headed eagle of the Austrias and the crowned eagle of Saint John , the symbol of Spanish unity. The third section alludes to the popes who supported the development of the Salamanca University institutions. To both the left and right of these levels there are various mythological scenes in which opposing aspects are highlighted: love or virtue to the left, deepened sensuality or vice to the right.
Every tour of Salamanca should start in the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), located at the heart of the city where all the main streets converge. Designed by the architect Alberto Churriguera, construction started on the Plaza back in 1755. The Plaza’s major buildings are the Ayuntamiento (Salamanca Town Hall) and the Pabellón Real (Royal Pavillion), located just above the Arco del Toro (Bull Arch). Leaving the Plaza towards the south and taking the Rúa Mayor, you will reach the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) on the corner of the Calle de la Compañía. Built in 1493 for Rodrigo Maldonado, the building is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Maldonado’s son had the building decorated with shells symbolic of his wife’s lineage ( bus 3, 4 & 9; Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 21:00, Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 14:00 & 17:00 to 20:00; free). Located on a street that runs parallel to the Rúa Mayor, the Calle de San Pablo, is the Palacio de la Salina (Salina Palace), a building from the XVI century which owes its name to the fact that for many years it was used as a storage facility for salt, in Spanish sal ( daily from 11:00 to 23:00; free).
Opposite the Casa de las Conchas is the Holy Spirit church, better known as the Clerecía , which was built by Juan Gómez de Mora in 1617 for the Jesuit order, and next is the Universidad Pontificia (Pontifical University), a building with a baroque cloister built on the site which formerly housed the Royal College of the Jesuit Order ( Monday to Friday from 10:30 to 12:45 & 17:00 to 18:30, Saturday 10:00 to 13:20 & 17:00 to 19:15 and Sunday 10:00 to 13:00; 3 €). Returning to the Rúa Mayor and following it to the end, you will find the Plaza de Anaya (Anaya Square). Located along the sides of this square are some of the city’s most representative buildings, such as the Colegio de Anaya (Anaya College), with its neoclassical façade, Iglesia de San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian’s Church), designed by Churriguera; the New Cathedral, designed by Juan Campero in 1513 ( daily from 9:00 to 19:30; free); and the Old Cathedral , which with its remarkable Torre del Gallo (Rooster Tower) was built in a late Romanesque style starting in 1140 (the entrance for the Old Cathedral is located inside the New Cathedral; daily from 10:00 to 19:30; 4.75 €).
In the square that runs between the two cathedrals, known as the Patio Chico, concerts and theatrical events are held during the summer. Next -in calle del Expolio, 14- is the Art Nouveau and Art Decó Museum ( bus 3, 4 & 9; Tuesday to Friday from 11:00 to 14:00 & 17:00 to 21:00, Saturday & Sunday 11:00 to 21:00; adults 3 €, students 2 €, free on Thursday from 11:00 to 14:00); the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop’s Palace), located in the Plaza de Juan XXIII; and the University of Salamanca , alma mater of such personalities as Miguel de Unamuno, Fray Luis de León, Jovellanos, Meléndez Valdés and Tierno Galván, among others. The University is famous for its monumental façade, the inner cloister, the old library and the classrooms named after Fray Luis de León and Unamuno ( Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 13:30 & 16:00 to 19:00, Saturday 9:30 to 13:30, Sunday 10:00 to 13:00; adults 4 €, students 2 €, free on Monday morning).
Opposite the University -in Patio de Escuelas, 2- is the Salamanca Museum or Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), housed in a Gothic-Renaissance building ( Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 & 16:00 to 19:00, Sunday 10:00 to 14:00; 1.20 €), and -in Libreros, 25- the Casa Museo de Unamuno (Unamuno House & Museum), located in the building where the former Univeristy president (1900-1914) used to live ( Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 to 13:30 & 16:00 to 18:00, Saturday & Sunday 10:00 to 13:30; adults 3 €, students 1.50 €).
THE DEVIL AT MASS
The Cave of Salamanca
The old church of San Ciprián or San Cebrián (in the Plaza de Carvajal) is mentioned in a legend that has been disseminated thanks to the works of Cervantes, Calderón de la Barca, and Walter Scott, among others. According to the story, in the guise of a verger Satan taught occultism classes in the vestry to seven pupils for seven years, at the end of which time one of them had to stay in his service for life.
The legend owes its origin to the parish priest Clemente Potosí, who secretly taught astrology and palmistry classes. As the subject of study was never revealed, the legend arose in the belief that there were seven pupils; this number has mystical implications. The students had to pay for the classes, or rather one of their number paid for them all if chosen by drawing lots. If the one who had to pay could not meet the debt, he had to be shut up in the cave. This happened to Enrique de Aragón, the future Marqués de Villena. Young Enrique did not resign himself to his fate and devised a strategy for escaping. In order to do so he hid inside a vat covered with various materials, which he tried to leave intact so as not to be discovered. When the master returned to the vestry and found it empty, he left in a fright without closing the door, which allowed the Marqués to escape.
Some say that the cave is the entrance to a labyrinth of tunnels that run beneath the subsoil of the city. The church was demolished in 1580, although its restoration began anew in the mid 20th century. Visitors can climb the Torre del Marqués de Villena and contemplate the walls that surrounded it. The fame of the legend was so great that in Latin America caves or hidden Place s where palmistry is practised are known as “salamancas”.
After crossing the Puerta del Río y Calvario (River Gate) towards the south, you’ll get to the Roman Bridge , part of the famous Silver Route from Emerita Augusta to Astorga during emperor Trajano. Fifteeen of the bridge’s arches date from the period of Roman occupation. Next at the right -in plaza del Mercado Viejo- the Museo de la Historia de la Automoción (Automobile History Museum) offers a big collection of old vehicles ( bus 1, 6, 9 & 13; Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 14:00 & 17:00 to 20:00; adults 3 €, students 2 €). Heading back towards the Cathedral is the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea , a garden where tradition tells us the death of the two unfortunate lovers took place ( daily from 10:00 till late; free); the Cueva de Salamanca (Salamanca Cave) -in Cuesta de Carvajal- the site of a greatest Salamanca legend; and also the Marques de Villena Tower , with walls that are part of the old medieval wall that once surrounded the city (see side note; bus 3, 4 & 9; Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 to 22:00, Friday & Saturday 9:30 to 23:00; free).
Located east, in Plaza del Concilio de Trento are the main convents in Salamanca: Convento de las Dueñas is a convent built in the XV century atop a Mudejar palace ( daily from 11:00 to 12:45 & 16:30 to 18:45; adults 2 €, students 1 €); the Dominican Convent and Church of San Esteban offers a renacentist and barroque style ( daily from 910:00 to 13:15 & 16:00 to 19:15; adults 3 €, students 2 €).
Back at the Casa de las Conchas, if you head down the Calle Compañía you will find the Solís and Maldonado manor homes, both of which represent noble residences of the XVI century; San Benito church and the Agustinas convent , adjacent to the church of Purísima by the Napolitan architect Bartolomeo Pichatti. Then the Palacio de Monterrey , built by Gil de Hontañón and Pedro de Ybarra during the XVI century. Next is the Capilla de los Capuchinos (Capuchine Chapel), with its baroque façade; and further up the street -in plaza de Fonseca, 4- the Colegio del Arzobispo Fonseca (Archbishop Fonseca College), which during the XVI century was used as a center for Irish noble students to stay in Salamanca ( bus 5, 6, 10 & 11; daily from 10:00 to 13:30 & 16:00 to 19:00; adults 2 €, students 1 €). Just opposite are the San Francisco gardens , with the Veracruz chapel and the Convento de Santa Ursula ( Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 13:00 & 16:30 to 18:00; 2 €). Again towards the south, you will find the modern Convention Center , crowned by an emblematic concrete dome designed by Juan Navarro Baldeweg.
If we take the A-62 dual carriageway west out of Salamanca, after 87 kilometres we come to Ciudad Rodrigo, the historic city centre of which has been declared of historical and artistic interest thanks to its rich heritage of both religious and civil buildings. Highlights include the city walls built in the 12th century with the Puerta del Sol and the Puerta de Santiago, and the Plaza Mayor with buildings such as the Casa del Primer Marqués de Cerralbo, the Town Hall, and the Cathedral, the construction of which dates from the 12th century. Other notable monuments include the Puerta de las Cadenas, the Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel) with a vault by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, and the Diocesan Museum. The Herrera-style Capilla del Marqués de Cerralbo, which is near the Cathedral, preserves important altarpieces in its interior.