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Salamanca is a city of thought and knowledge, famous for its university, one of the oldest in Spain. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage City and is full of history and culture. These are some of the best sights in the city.
Plaza Mayor - This plaza is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. Alberto Churriguera was the person who designed its Baroque style and started its construction in 1720. The square has arcaded buildings, three stories tall, in a uniform architectural style. The buildings have semicircular arches and balustrades. The City Hall is located on the north side and is in the style of Jose de Churriguera, built as a Baroque building that has five granite arches and a steeple decorated with allegoric figures. There are medallions of Charles I, Alfonso XI, Fernando VI, Cervantes, and Saint Teresa. This square is the center of life in the city.
Salamanca has two cathedrals, the New Cathedral and the Old Cathedral, and these are located side by side and connected. The New Cathedral was started in 1513 and finished in 1733. The style is a mixture of Late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The tower was started in 1705 and later the Churriguera brothers built the dome. The dome had to be reinforced in 1763 because of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The interior has 3 naves with wide pillars and side altars, and the dimensions are 105m x 50m. The dome starts 80m over the floor.
The choir is one of the most famous of the Spanish Baroque and was done by A. Churriguera. There are two famous chapels, the Golden Chapel (which contains the sculpture museum) and the Chapel of Christ of the Battles. In the treasury is the bronze crucifix that was carried into battle before El Cid.
The Old Cathedral was constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style. It has 3 naves and a beautiful hexagonal dome, called Torre del Gallo. In its Capilla Mayor, there is a beautiful Gothic retable from the 15th century. There are also big cloisters. The church has Europe's oldest organ, installed in the Chapel of Bishop Diego de Anaya.
Casa de las Conchas - The House of the Shells was built at the end of the 15th century in the Gothic style, but it has Renaissance and Mudejar elements. Its mixture of styles is called Isabelline. There are over three hundred shells covering its outer walls. The building suffered cracks in the 18th century, so it had to be remodeled and the upper parts do not have shells because of this. There is a Gothic coat of arms with lilies above the entrance door. The building contains an information office and the city public library today.
Salamanca University - This famous school was founded in 1218 and became famous all over Europe as a great teaching center. The main building was constructed in 1433 and has a square base and a central patio with surrounding galleries that looks like a cloister. The facade is famous for its Plateresque style. The building contains the University Library, with more than 250,000 books. The facade has statues of Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand, and also the coat of arms of Carlos V. These are surrounded by floral motifs and heraldic emblems. There is a frog hidden here that is supposed to give students good luck on their exams. There are several buildings that comprise the university.
Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco - Casa Lis is the name of the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco that opened in Salamanca in 1995 and is one of the most popular museums in Castile and Leon. The museum has 19 different collections from the late 19th century and early 20th century. There are about 2500 items in the museum. The pieces were donated by Manuel Ramos Andrade, an antique dealer who was born in Salamanca. The building itself is a work of art with a beautiful stained glass ceiling and stained glass façade.
Chriselephantines are small sculptures made of bronze and ivory and the museum has 120 of these pieces, created by 52 of the best known artists of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. There are more than 300 porcelain dolls from France and Germany that are on exhibit. There are more than 200 glassware items created by famous artists such as Emile Galle, Rene Lalique, and the Daum Brothers.
Las Dueñas Convent - This convent was started in 1419 by the Dominican nuns and its church is from the 16th century and is in the Gothic style. The original building was a Mudejar palace built by the founder Doña Juana Rodriguez. The courtyard is very beautiful and has the Renaissance style. The building also has the Mudejar influence with pointed arches and beautiful ceramic tile. The church has a single nave with a Plateresque facade.
San Esteban Church and Monastery - This is a Dominican convent built in the 16th century in the Gothic style, but with Plateresque and Baroque decoration. The ground plan of the church is the Latin cross with one nave. There are spiral columns done by Jose de Churriguera. The main panel is a painting by Claudio Coello with a scene of the martyrdom of San Esteban. There are three cloisters, the most beautiful being the Royal Cloister. There is the Pantheon of the Theologists which has tombs of prestigious Dominican priests.
Santa Clara Convent - This is a 13th century convent of Franciscan nuns that was rebuilt in the 16th century after a fire. Restoration discovered beautiful 14th century murals. The convent is famous for the impressive main altar done by Joaquin Churriguera. The retable shows images of Santa Clara, San Francisco, and San Antonio. There is a museum in the convent.
Puente Romano - The bridge was built in the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The bridge crosses the Tormes River and has 26 semicircular arches, with strong pillars. The measurements of the bridge are 176 meters long by 3.7 meters wide. The bridge was part of the Via de la Plata Roman road that went from Merida to Astorga.
San Martín Church - This church was built in the 12th century by the Count Martin Fernandez on top of an old chapel for St. Peter. The building is considered one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Spain. The floor plan is rectangular, with three naves and three apses. The Romanesque south portal is decorated with archivolts. One niche shows a relief of St. Martin sharing his tunic with a pauper. The high reredos behind the altar was made by Churriguera in 1731. One of the impressive tombs belongs to Diego de Santiesteban and the choir is also noteworthy.
Torre del Clavero Tower - The tower was built in the 15th century and is part of the Palace of Sotomayor. What is unusual of its architecture is that it has a square base that later turns into an octagon as it goes up. There are small cylindrical towers on each of its eight angles. The decorations of the tower include coats of arms. At present the Salamanca Provincial Government occupies the building.
Palace of Monterrey - This palace is owned by the Duchess of Alba and is from the 16th century, one of the most important Spanish Renaissance buildings. The architects were R. Gil de Hontañon and the Dominican Martin de Santiago. The most impressive feature of the building is the plateresque decoration of the towers. Only the outside of the building can be seen, since it is a private property.
Las Ursulas Convent - Archbishop Alonso de Fonseca founded this convent in the 16th century. The Gothic church has one nave with ribbed vaults and a polygonal apse. The tomb of Don Alfonso de Fonseca has a white marble sarcophagus and was done by the sculptor Diego de Siloe. There are valuable paintings in its museum.
La Purísima Church - Manuel de Fonseca y Zuñiga built this church in the 17th century as a place for his family pantheon and as a convent for his daughter. The architects were Juan Gomez de Mora, Francisco de la Hoya, and Antonio de Carassa. The ground plan is a Latin cross and the church has barrel vaults on the ceiling. The portico has semicircular arches resting on fluted pilasters. The high reredos was done by Jose de Ribera.
Anaya Palace - This palace was constructed in 1762 by Jose Hermosilla. The building is an impressive Neoclassical building with four Ionic columns below a triangular pediment. The patio has a double gallery with 16 Doric columns on the ground floor and 16 Ionic columns at the upper gallery. There is a magnificent imperial staircase with a bust of Miguel de Unamuno. The University of Salamanca occupies the building.
Salina Palace - The architect Gil de Hontañon designed the palace after he received the commission from Rodrigo de Messia. The building has the Renaissance style. Originally it was used to store salt, thus the name of the palace. There is a patio decorated with figures of twisted bodies. Salamanca's Provincial Council occupies the building at present.
San Marcos Church - The Romanesque building has a circular floor plan and was built in the 112th century. The steeple is Baroque. There are three naves that end in a semicircular apse. There are 14th century Gothic paintings of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Fonseca College - Don Alfonso de Fonseca was the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela and Toledo and he was the one who had this edifice built in 1538. His architect was Diego de Siloe. The courtyard has two galleries, the lower one with semicircular arches and the upper floor with low arches. There are medallions to decorate both floors, being the work of Juan de Alava and Pedro de Ibarra. The main facade has sculptures of San Agustin and San Ildefonso. The chapel has an altarpiece made up of paintings and sculptures of Alonso Berruguete. Today the building houses a residence of the university.
Salamanca Museum - The museum is located in a 15th century building and has a collection from the 14th century to the present day. There are paintings, sculptures, Flemish panels, altarpieces, metalwork, and archaeological pieces. This is the typical provincial museum.