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Salamanca is located nearly 125 miles from the western part of Madrid, right along the Castilla y Leon region. The city of Salamanca is known for its old university and historic sites like cathedrals, churches and castles. The city is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site and was also declared as the European Capital of Culture.
History of Salamanca
Salamanca became known all over the world as a capital for learning after King Alfonso IX established the city’s first university. In the 16th century, Isabella and Ferdinand funded the construction of architectural masterpieces like the cathedral. During the Napoleonic Wars, Salamanca was seized by the French army but the city was later reclaimed by the Duke of Wellington in the Battle of Salamanca. At present, the university is no longer considered to be the best in Spain but the city still gets visitors due to its many great tourist attractions.
The Plaza Mayor said to be the most magnificent square in Spain is also the heart of Salamanca. Surrounding the square are quaint cafes and the beautiful town hall. Just a short walk from the square is the Casa de las Conchas or the House of Shells which is a villa built in the 14th century. The stone façade of the villa is carved entirely with shells to pay homage to the historic Santiago de Compostela. Near the villa is the La Clerecia, a 17th century church with two magnificent spires.
The Old and the New Cathedral
The old cathedral of Salamanca is called the Catedral Vieja and was built in the 12th century. It has a simple Romanesque design which is the exact opposite of the new cathedral’s design. Frescoes were added in the Capilla de San Martin during the 13th century. In 1513, the construction of the new cathedral called the Catedral Nueva was started and it was completed almost 200 years later. It has an elaborate design with Baroque and Gothic inspirations. The new cathedral is famous for its impressive dome and carvings that depict the life of Jesus Christ.
The famous Salamanca University is where the statue of Fray Luis de Leon can be found, specifically in the Patio de Escuelas. De Leon was imprisoned during the time of the Spanish inquisition. Near the university is the historic San Esteban Church which has a beautifully carved façade. The university has quite a few famous alumni like Hernan Cortes and Miguel de Cervantes.
The Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca has a wide collection of more than 1,500 paintings, antique furniture, ancient jewelry and porcelain dolls. Pieces created by Lalique, a world renowned glassmaker, are also displayed in the museum.
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