Sunday, March 01, 2009

Salamanca, Spain - May 2008

Salamanca, in western Spain, is built on a mountain next to the Tormes River and is one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe, often referred to as the Golden City for the almost glowing sandstone used in many buildings. The Old City gained World Heritage status in 1988. Check out some views here.
From the south, access is via a 400' long, 26 arch, stone bridge. Fifteen arches are from Roman times while the remainder date from the 16th century. The city has had
an exceptionally turbulent history - Celts, Romans, Hannibal, Moors, evacuated DMZ between Christians and Moors and so on, until the Christians finally triumphed in the 12th century.
In 1218, Alfonso IX of León created the University of Salamanca in the city, the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. By the end of the Spanish Golden Age (roughly 1550-1650, during which Christopher Columbus lectured there on his discoveries), the quality of academics declined, accompanied by a sharp decline in the number of students and the
centuries old prestige of Salamanca simply evaporated. During the 1940s efforts were made to reinvigorate the university which today, with 36,000 students, majors in humanities and languages.
The Plaza Mayor - the central square - was constructed by Andrés García de Quiñones at the beginning of the 18th century with shaded arcades all around and the ability to accommodate as many as 20,000 people.
Regarded as one of the finest squares in Europe, it was originally a venue for bullfights but is currently used for concerts and other more peaceable events.Unusually, Salamanca has two cathedrals that actually adjoin each other. The old Romanesque cathedral was founded in the 12th century while the new one was built in stages, beginning in 1509, in a mix of Late Gothic and Baroque styles and was still being finished in 1734. Included among the carvings on the facade is the unlikely likeness of a space-walking astronaut, which was added by an artist during restoration work in 1992 as a symbol of the 20th century.

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