Salamanca, Mexico Tourist Attractions
How to get thereFrom Mexico City by rail about 7.5 hours; by bus or car a total of approximately 300km/186mi on the MEX 57 D to Querétaro and from there via Celaya on the MEX 45 D or the MEX 45.The town of Salamanca lies on the north bank of the Río Lerma in the middle of the Bajío, a fertile plateau extending over parts of the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro. Although famed for its large petroleum refinery, the town in fact contains one of the country's most richly-decorated churches.HistoryIn the pre-Spanish period the Otomí settlement of Xidoo was situated here. After the Spanish influx the brothers Juan and Sancho Barahoma, the owners of a hacienda, gave the settlement the name Salamanca. The official foundation date of the town is given as 1603. During the 17th and 18th c. there was much building activity here by the Church. Like all settlements in Mexico's heartland, Salamanca also played a part in the Mexican War of Independence (1810-21). The Revolution in the 20th c. and the ensuing epidemics caused relapses in the development of the region. In the last 40 years there has been considerable agricultural and industrial growth from which the town of Salamanca has also profited.
The most splendid historical monument to the Colonial period of Salamanca is the church of San Agustín, work on which began in 1615. This tall and relatively narrow building, inconspicuously situated, has a simple façade. Severe columns, embellished with hollow spiral mouldings, flank the entrance. The positioning of the crucifix on the top of the façade beneath a conche is unusual.The interior of the church is almost completely covered with painted and gilded panelling. Strong Moorish influence (Mudéjar) is apparent in the gilded wooden ornamentation of the dome and the wooden choir railings. The side altar of San Nicolás de Tolentino artistically portrays the life story of this 14th c. friar; the form of the net-shaped background is masterly. The high altar was replaced in 1832 by a Neo-Classical work.Two further magnificent side altars, dedicated to St Joseph and St Anne, have been preserved unaltered. These two altars are magnificent examples of the Churrigueresque style. In contrast to the relatively flat moulding of the altars in the nave, the emphasis here is on a particularly vivid portrayal of the almost life-size figures of the saints.
Church of San Bartolo
The old parish church of San Bartolo has a "rural" Baroque façade. The typically Churrigueresque estipites (pyramidal pilasters with the pointed end downward) are complemented by sculptures by local masters which incorporate old-Indian motifs such as the snake.
20km/13mi north-west of Salamanca on the MEX 45D is Irapuato (1795 m (5891 ft); population 327,000; fiestas: February 15th, Foundation Day; April 2nd, Strawberry Mass). This rapidly-growing town is a centre of agriculture and of probably the largest strawberry-growing region in the world. It also has a number of interesting buildings including the beautiful Neo-Classical Palacio Municipal (Town Hall) with its enormous patio, the church of El Hospital (Churrigueresque façade, early 18th c.) and the mid-18th c. La Parroquia (parish church) with its richly-embellished doorway. The church of San Francisco houses two notable paintings: "Virgin of Guadelupe" by Cabrera, and "Virgin of the Apocalypse" by Tresguerras.