Plaza Mayor, Salamanca
The central feature of Salamanca is the Plaza Mayor, a regular square (actually trapezoid in shape) of arcaded three-story buildings in uniform architectural style which was begun in 1729 to the design of Alberto de Churriguera and completed in 1755. In its unity of conception and execution it is one of the most magnificent squares in Spain, a splendid setting for ceremonial occasions, in which bullfights were still being held in the 19th century. With its many cafes and bars under the arcades, it is a lively scene in the evening.
Plaza Mayor Map
Between the Plaza Mayor and the University
Adjoining the southwest corner of the Plaza Mayor is the little Plaza Corillo, with the church of San Martín (12th C.), in Late Romanesque style, which has a 13th century relief of St Martin on the north doorway and Plateresque decoration on the southwest doorway. It contains several Gothic tombs and a retablo by Alberto de Churriguera (1731).
House of the Scallop-Shells
From Plaza Corillo the Rúa Mayor runs southwest to a small square, at the corner of which, on the right, is the Casa de las Conchas, built in 1514. This was the town mansion of Talavera Maldonado, a knight of the Order of Santiago, who decorated the facade of his house lavishly with the scallop-shells associated with St James, which create changing patterns of light and shade according to the position of the sun. Note also the finely wrought window grilles. Visitors are shown round the house, which has a very handsome two-story courtyard and a staircase well with a beautiful coffered ceiling.
Abutting La Clerecía in Salamanca is the Pontifical University, in which theology, philosophy and canon law are taught. A staircase leads up to the gallery surrounding the very handsome Baroque courtyard.
North and East of the Playa Mayor
Sancti Spiritus (Espíritu Santo)
Farther to the east of the Cathderal is the 16th Century church of Sancti Spiritus, with a Plateresque doorway. Notable features of the interior are the fine high altar (1659) and the Sagrario. The cloister dates from the 13th century.
At the north end of the old town is the 12th century church of San Marcos. Circular in form, it has two apses containing Gothic wall paintings.
West of the Playa Mayor
Palacio de Monterrey
Convento de las Agustinas
Opposite the Palacio de Monterrey is the Convento de las Agustinas (1598-1636), with the church of La Purísima, which contains a number of fine pictures by Ribera, including the "Immaculate Conception" (1635), one of his finest works.
Colegio Mayor del Arzobispo Fonseca
Farther west of the Plaza Mayor is the former Colegio Mayor del Arzobispo Fonseca (1527-78), also known as the Colegio de los Irlandeses, having originally been built for Irish students in Salamanca. The doorway is Plateresque, and the church itself has a beautiful retablo by Alonso Berruguete and pictures by pupils of his. The two-story courtyard with its fine capitals and medallions containing busts was designed by Diego de Siloé.
Convento de las Úrsulas
Northeast of the Colegio Fonseca, in the beautiful tree-shaded Calle de las Úrsulas, is the Convento de las Úrsulas, a convent of Ursuline nuns which contains the magnificent alabaster tomb (by Diego de Siloé) of Archbishop Alonso Fonseca. In the convent is a small museum with works by Michel Ángelo, Morales, Juan de Borgoña and other artists.
Casa de las Muertes
At the end of Calle de las Úrsulas lies a little square with a monument to the writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who was also Rector of the University. Opposite it is the Casa de las Muertes, a 15th century mansion in Plateresque style which takes its name from the skulls on the upper part of the facade. In a medallion over the doorway is a bust of Archbishop Fonseca.
Map of Salamanca Attractions