Date of World Heritage Site Declaration by the UNESCO: December9th, 1988.
Site: Salamancas’ historic city center.
Location: Salamanca Province.
Located in the Campo de Salamanca region, towards the north of the peninsula, Salamanca represents the headquarters of the Salamancan Dioceses. Its population is around 150,000 citizens, and the origins of its metropolis date back to 2,700 years ago.
The city hosts the oldest still active university of Spain, The University of Salamanca, created in the year 1218 by Alfonso IX of León. It was also the first one in Europe to obtain the title of University by Royal Decree of Alfonso X The Wise in the year 1252, and by the LicentiaUbiqueDocenti of the Pope Alejandro IV in the year 1255.
Salamanca is part of internacional history due ton names such as Antonio de Nebrija, Cristobal Colón, Fernando de Rojas, Fray Luis de León or Miguel de Unamuno.
In the year 1988, the historical city center was declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. It has a wide variety of highly relevant archeological-historical heritage, among which we can find both of its cathedrals, The House of Shells (La casa de lasConchas), The Plaza Mayor, San Estebans’ convent and the Escuelas Mayores. Starting back in the year 2003, its Easter is considered International Touristic Interest.
In the year 2002, it was declared European Capital of Culture b y the European Cancellers and Parliament. In the year 2005, the XV celebration of the Iberian-American Meeting represented by a multitude of presidents and representatives of Countries took place in this city. In this year, the International Art Festival of Castilla y León also took place here.
In Salamanca we can also find important scientific institutions and investigations centers such as the Cancer Investigation Center, the Neuroscience Institute of Castilla y León and the CLPUU (Center of Laser technology specialized in ultra short ultra intense pulsed lasers).
Currently, it is considered a world-wide representative of the teaching of the Spanish tongue, seeing as 78% of the offer is located in this city out of the entire region of Castilla y León, and 16% of the nation.
On the banks of the Tormes
Salamancas’ history began approximately 2,700 years ago and had its origin in a settlement near the San Vicente area, over the Tormes River. Ever since, the city has witnessed the constant invasions of Vaccees, Romans, Visigoths or Muslims. The Medieval repopulation took place under Raimundo de Borgoña, in law of the King Alfonso VI.
In the year 220 B.C, almost five thousand citizens of the Pre-roman city of Salamanca attended the assault carried out by the Military General from Cartagena Aníbal Barca, accompanied by a troop of 40 elephants. Starting in the year I B.C, the romans turned the city into a populated “civitas”, and a strategic point inside the Via de la Plata Path. With the goal of facilitating the use of this path, which communicated Mérida with Astorga, the roman engineers built a long bridge that is still standing as of today. The city, which back then belonged to the Lusitana, reached then its category as township.
In the V Century, witnessing by the roman crisis and the constant invasions by the Germanic towns, Salamanca began its 700 years of decadence. With the arrival of the Muslims, the crisis got worse due to the fact that the city was suffering constant invasions from both parties.
The northern Christians failed as they tried to repopulate the area and the Islamits of the South could only carry out a few invasions lead by Almanzor.
Towards the end of the XI Century, the French Count Raimundo de Borgoña repopulated the city with Francos and people coming from Galicia, and the different groups of settlers’ spread out through the forty areas with its corresponding churches. The Episcopal See was restored in the year 1102, and this way, the Romanic cathedral began to arise and the first roman and Celtiberian wall was constructed. In the XIII Century, the city widens its perimeter and in the year 1218 the General States were created, which would become the current university.
After the European crisis of the XIV Century and a problematic XV Century characterized by the constant fights between the Feudal Sirs, Salamanca enters the XVI Century decided to become the most important renaissance city of the Iberian Peninsula. The social and financial prosperity that helped them with the trade, along the rent from the Feudalism system, and the Wool activity, managed to rise the city’s’ population to 25,000 citizens.
The university reached in this time one of its highest reputations as a result of turning Salamanca in a Cultural Point of the Peninsula, which attracted a multitude of students from everywhere as well as many religious representatives, all of them looking for the intellectual and humanist refuge of this Institution. A variety of palaces were erected, as well as convents and schools of a clear Silver based style.
Its golden times lasted towards the end of the XVII Century, Golden Century for the Spanish Tongue during which writers such as Miguel de Cervantes, San Juan de la Cruz, Teresa de Jesús, Luis de Góngora, Francisco de Quevedo, Calderón de la Barca or Lope de Vega took place.
Its social, financial and cultural boom slowly started to wash away as another general great crisis caused the population to decrease again. Despite this fact, during this time, many baroque style buildings were erected such as the Clerecía or The Mayor Plaza, elements that are still standing in the metropolis.
The negative impact of the Independence war only got better upon the arrival of the train, but the Civil War began and it meant yet another parenthesis during which Salamanca became the headquarters of Francos’ General Troops. After the conflict and a long period post-war, the university was once again part of the life of the city. With democracy came financial prosperity and social stabilization, transforming the city in a true university, culture and touristic like center. In the XX Century the UNESCO declared it World Heritage.
The UniversityThe University of Salamanca is the oldest one in Spain and among the four oldest ones in Europe together with Bolonia, Oxford and Paris.
The General EstudioThe General Estudio, which later became the University, was created in the year 1218 and was the second oldest one in Spain, after the General Estudio of Palencia. It is also the first education focused institution in Europe which obtained the University title thanks to Alejandro IV in the year 1255.
Historical buildings The historical buildings of the University were erected in the XV Century, and are the Building of the Mayor Schools, the Building of the Minor Schools and the Studying Hospital. All three buildings are located in the Patios’ square of the Schools, in the city center.
Mayor SchoolsThe Building of the Mayor Schools is the most characteristic one of all. It began its construction in the year 1411 and its façade is divided in three naves. The first one withholds a medal by the Catholic Kings, the second one has the shield of Carlos V and the third one a chapel dedicated to the Pope Benedict XIII which dedicated their life to the construction of the Catholic Kings in the year 1534, long after his death.
The Studying Hospital erected in the year 1413, was used as dorms for the students with complicated financial situations. It is currently the headquarters of the University.
The frog of SalamancaThe frog of Salamanca is an ornamentover the buildings’gate that is more and more relevant over time, to now become a city’s symbol. It’s a small frog over a skull, and many tales tells its story. .
Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor
It is an urban space built as the Plaza Mayor that has slowly become the center of the social life of the city. Built in a baroque style between the years 1729 and 1756, its design is by the architect Alberto Churrigera although it was continued by other architects later on.
In the beginning of the XIX Century, it went under construction multiple times for urbanistic reforms, though the most important one took place in the XX Century, when it was provided of gardens, a central kiosk for music purposes and public restrooms with the goal of having it become diaphanous.
It was born naturally next to a trading tent, near the old Puertadel Sol. Due to the fact that the San Martín church was located there, in the XV Century it got given the name of Plaza de San Martín. The square, much bigger then than the Plaza Mayor to almost four times its size, included the market square, the Corrillo square and the square of the poet Iglesias, being considered therefore the biggest plaza of the Christian community.
The Corrector Rodrigo Caballero, native from the south of Spain, is the one who had the idea for its construction, which convinced the town hall of the necessity of having a more matching square with the rest of the urbanistic facades of back then. The square is built in the same style as the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and the town hall is at last moved there, giving it the qualification for its name.
It is worth highlighting that back then, the Plaza Mayor of Madrid was different, as it had to extra decks and wasn’t completely closed up, but after undergoing a fire in the year 1970, Juan de Villanueva rebuilds it and changes its shape, taking away those two decks and closing the corners up with arches for Access from the streets, in the same style as Salamanca.
Currently, Salamancas’ Plaza Mayor is the center of the life in the city, a regular meeting spot for its citizens. We can find many bars and terraces in it, as well as the oldest café of the town, the Novelty Café, regular meeting point for artists and literature fans since its opening in 1905.
Due to its 250 anniversary, the town put together a cultural program called “Salamanca 2005. Europes’ Plaza Mayor”, in which they offered multiple music festivals and theatre shows destined to all sorts of visitors.
The House of Shells
A gothic building
Erected towards the end of the XV Century and with a Civil Gothic Style, its facade is decorated with over 350 shells typical from Galicia, distinctive of the Santiago’s Order. The originality of this House Of Shells was not only the reason that makes it interesting, but also the way the shells are placed, as it follows the tradition from Mudejar of doing it in a diamond shape. It is currently a public library.
Calixto and Melibeas’ Garden
Lending scenario novel
This is a garden of about 2,500 square meters located in the historical center of Salamanca, which offers a beautiful sight of the Cathedrals and the Tormes River. Its name comes from Fernando de Rojas’ choice to use it as stage for its novel “La Celestina”, book published in the year 1502.
This garden is located next to the Antique Wall of Salamanca, right at by the Tormes River. Nowadays it’s a public park considered to have a romantic scenery due to the love story that the characters from Rojas’ book played out on it. It was first opened in the year 1981.