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Travel Photos...Spain and Portugal


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In October, 2017, I travelled to a few places in Spain and Portugal. My first destination was Salamanca (outlined with a red rectangle on the map above). I also visited Zamora, Lisbon, Evora, Nazare, Coimbra, Porto, Santiago de Compostela and Madrid.
Salamanca is situated about 200 kms West from Madrid and about 80 kms East from the Portuguese border. It is the capital of the Province of Salamanca. It is an important university city and it especially attracts foreign students who go there to study the Spanish language. The large number of students in Salamanca ensures that it is a lively place to visit.

The photo above shows the New and the Old Cathedrals of Salamanca. They sit beside each other and they are connected with an internal passageway, almost as if they were conjoined twins. In front of them stands a remnant of the old city walls.

We first enter the New Cathedral, built in the Gothic style in the 16th Century, but which was finally completed in the 18th Century. The photo above shows the lavish Baroque decoration of the centre of the structure, close to the Dome.

One reason for the late completion is that there was serious structural damage to the Cathedral resulting from the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Much work had to be done to repair the cupola and the base of the tower.

This view of the Nave of the New Cathedral reveals its Gothic origins.
This gorgeous wall decoration in the New Cathedral is an excellent example of the Plateresque style.

Wikipedia explains:

"Plateresque, meaning "in the manner of a silversmith" (Plata means silver in Spanish), was an artistic movement, especially architectural, developed in Spain and its territories, which appeared between the late Gothic and early Renaissance in the late 15th century, and spread over the next two centuries. It is a modification of Gothic spatial concepts and an eclectic blend of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Lombard decorative components, as well as Renaissance elements of Tuscan origin.

Examples of this syncretism are the inclusion of shields and pinnacles on facades, columns built in the Renaissance neoclassical manner, and facades divided into three parts (in Renaissance architecture they are divided into two). It reached its peak during the reign of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, especially in Salamanca, but also flourished in other such cities of the Iberian Peninsula as León and Burgos and in the territory of New Spain, which is now Mexico."

As we shall see, this Plateresque style is also evident in many of the facades of major buildings in Salamanca.

The word 'Mudejar' refers to Islamic artistic styles which arrived in Spain following the Muslim conquests centuries before, and which left their mark on Spanish architecture many centuries after the fall of the Muslim empires.

Not quite sure what the sculptures above signify, but I found them amusing.
This is the passageway from the New to the Old Cathedral. The style is now definitely Romanesque.

What amazed me is that the Old Romanesque Cathedral was not simply demolished, as was often the case, to make way for a new Gothic building. Great care was taken to preserve the old alongside the new.

This Romanesque capital in the Old Cathedral is worth a closer look. Strange creatures next to a large face!
The Old Cathedral was founded in the 12th Century and completed in the 14th. The apse, shown above, contains a large cycle of 53 paintings, depicting the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
A closer view of some of the 53 paintings.
Above the 53 panels in the apse is a depiction of the Final Judgement. The Good will ascend to Heaven, and the Bad will descend, naked, unto Hell.
That must be Peter on the left with the keys to the Holy Kingdom. Is that Paul on the right, with a sword and clasped book? I rather suspect that it was painted by a Flemish artist. Hmmm? Couldn't see any labels about it.
The Plataresque style is evident in this facade of the New Cathedral. The very top of the archway has a distinct Islamic (Mudejar) feel to it, while the Rose Window just below the pinnacle is Gothic and Christian.
A view, facing South, of the New Cathedral, with the setting sun shining from the West.
The two domes of the Old and the New Cathedrals. The dome on the right is Old Romanesque. The newer Renaissance dome on the left was constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

The distance between Lisbon and Salamanca (as the crow flies) is apparently 388 kms. That earthquake must have been huge to inflict so much damage to this Cathedral at such a distance.

In stark contrast, the simplicity of a humble street in Salamanca, leading downhill, out of the Old Town.
Outside the Old Town, there are some interesting areas to explore. Those glassed-in curved balconies caught my eye.
One of the streets in the Old Town. The Church at the end of the street is the Iglesia de San Martin de Tours.
This private dwelling in the Old Town has a gentle whiff of the Plateresque just above the central wooden doors.
The River Tormes separates the Old Town from the New.
This Ancient Roman Bridge still spans the Tormes River, joining the Old and the New Towns.
Those Romans knew how to build for posterity!
The tall building with the twin towers in the centre of this photo is the Pontifical University of Salamanca (Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca)

It is now a private Roman Catholic University but it had its origins as part of the University of Salamanca, which was founded in 1218, one of the oldest such institutions in Europe.

In 1854, the Spanish Crown decided to dissolve the faculties of Theology and Canon Law at that ancient university, and, in the mid 20th Century, Pope Pius XII decided to establish a new pontifical university on the premises above. It also has a campus in Madrid.

The smaller building on the right is the Public Library {biblioteca publica). It has a lovely interior which we will explore later. In the next photo, we shall see a close up of sea shells, which feature as carved decorations on the main walls of the building.

This is the facade of The House of Shells, with part of the entrance to the Library.

The building is famous for its sea shell decoration. As I learnt later on this trip, the sea shell became the symbol of the pilgrims who partook of the "Way of Saint James", called the Camino in Spain. This pilgrimage can start in places like Lisbon in Portugal or the South of France, and end up in Santiago de Compostela. I met several such hardy pilgrims on my own (touristic) journey in this region.

The House of Shells was constructed in the 15th Century, and although there does not seem to be any clear evidence about the meaning of the shells, it is worth noting that the founder of the building, Doctor Rodriga Arias, was also the Chancellor of the Order of St James.

Just a coincidence?

This is the lovely courtyard of the Biblioteca Publica.
Looking up from the lower floor of the Library Courtyard, we can see the twin towers of the Pontifical University of Salamanca.
Right next to the House of Shells is this statue of Francisco de Salinas (1513 to 1590).

He was a Spanish music theorist and organist. Although he was blind from the age of eleven, he served as organist to the Duke of Alba and then served as professor of music at the University of Salamanca,

Here we catch our first glimpse of the major attraction in Salamanca... the Plaza Mayor. My Hostal was just behind us, and around the corner. Great location!
The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is most impressive and it always attracts a good crowd, day and night. All four sides have handsome collonades which provide shade from the sweltering sun for softies like me.
The Plaza in the evening. Lots of cafes where you can sip your coffee and watch the world go by. True, the coffees are much cheaper just a few blocks away, but the view here is worth it.
...and at night!
This is the view as we leave the South-West corner of the Plaza Mayor and head South, and slightly downhill.

Note the McDonalds poster on the left. Hey, don't knock McDonalds! They offer the best public toilets on the Continent. We Oldies appreciate that.

That lovely octagonal structure in the background is the last remaing tower from the old defensive wall system.
No Spanish city or town would dream of not having its own impressive Mercado.
This is the facade of the University of Salamanca. The University was founded in 1134. It is the oldest founded university in Spain.
This is the facade of the Convento de Estaban. It is a Dominican Monastery. The Dominicans became infamous as the shock troops of the Spanish Inquisition. They were nicknamed Domini Canes, which is Latin for God's dogs.
This facade in the Monastery is a great example of the Plateresque style.
A view of the Nave of the Church which is within the Monastery.
The fabulous gold alterpiece in the Church. This is Plateresque on steroids!
We end our visit to Salamanca with a closer view of the top section of the alterpiece in the Convento de Estaban.
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