Did you know that Salamanca is one of the few Spanish cities that have two cathedrals? Of course, it is not unusual to see several churches in the same place, but two cathedrals are rather more rare. Adjacent to the Catedral Vieja or Old Cathedral, work started in 1513 on what is popularly known as “La Nueva” or the “New One”.
The New Cathedral can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city thanks to its enormous size and its two protuberances: the dome and the bell tower, more about which later. The best view of the cathedral is from the south side. So tall and imposing is its silhouette that you can barely notice the adjoining Romanesque Old Cathedral, which is much lower and located further down the hill.
Founded by Bishop Jerome of Perigord, the Old Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Spanish Romanesque architecture. Started in 1140 and completed a century later, it has three naves with a transept and three semi-circular apses. It is topped with simple ribbed vaults and the transept is crowned by a singular hemispherical dome, called the Torre del Gallo, with its clearly Eastern influence.
Along with Segovia Cathedral, Salamanca’s New Cathedral, is considered to be the last of the Gothic style cathedrals built in Spain. The main façade is the west, which consists of three doors – one for each of the naves – in flaming Gothic style at its transition to Renaissance. It has a wealth of details, such as stone-carved images depicting scenes from the Bible and of Jesus’ life. You could easily spend hours and hours looking at it.
It is worth highlighting the dome as it is one of the most outstanding features of the Cathedral. The cylinder opens up to the outside through eight large windows and is topped with a highly decorated hemispherical dome. The bell tower was built in the early 18th century. One of the fascinating facts about the cathedral is that the bell tower was affected by the Lisbon earthquake and ended up at an angle, threatening its own demise and that of neighbouring houses. However, before demolishing it, a decision was made to reinforce it, lining it with stone to increase its stability. And so it remains right up to the present day: leaning but safe.
Admission to the cathedral costs €4.75 or €4 for students. If you are on a tight budget, Tuesday is your day, as admission is free from 10am to 12 noon. The entry fee includes both cathedrals. You can also go up the tower to admire the views of the city from one of its highest vantage points (€3.75 / €3.25 for groups of 20+ people). The views from the top are really impressive and include the old bridge and the River Duero. The tower opened to the public in 2002, when Salamanca was chosen as European Capital of Culture.
And, for the more inquisitive, be sure to look out for the astronaut, the lynx, the bull, the smiling dragon with an ice cream cone, the crayfish, the stork and the hare on the north door of the cathedral. Who says cathedrals are boring? We think you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained.
Have a great weekend friends!