About thirty minutes from our destination, the heavens opened. Luckily, we’d consulted the Internet and carried waterproofs and umbrellas. We were dropped off a short walk from the Plaza Mayor, the famous 18th century square – one of Spain’s largest and grandest. Here we stopped for a coffee and empanadilla. On the east side of the square is the Royal Pavilion, decorated with a bust of Felipe V, who built the square (though I believe he had some help…) 1729-1755. I spotted a bust of the Duke of Wellington, too.
Jen in Plaza Mayor Bust of Wellington
Cathedrals, old and newWe risked the rain and headed for the Cathedrals; there’s an old one and a new one. The terms ‘new’ and ‘old’ are relative, however: the 16th century new cathedral didn’t replace the old but was constructed beside it. So you enter the new and turn right to enter the old, the 12th and 13th century Romanesque cathedral. Here, you can see surviving wall paintings and the astonishing altarpiece with its 53 panels in lustrous colours. In the vault above is a fresco depicting scenes from the Last Judgement.
Roman BridgeWhen we finally emerged from the new cathedral, the rain had stopped and we walked to the roman bridge, which crosses the river Tormes and was built in 1AD. It still retains fifteen of its original 26 arches (some have been reconstructed due to damage by flooding over the years. Still visible on the ashlars of the arches are the holes of the Ferrei forceps or ‘big tweezers’ used to place them. Similar holes can be seen on the aqueduct of Segovia.
Lazarillo de TormesOverlooking the roman bridge and the river Tormes is a charming statue dedicated to the novella The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities, a picaresque book published anonymously in 1554. It concerns a boy, Lázaro, from Salamanca; his mother gives little Lázaro (Lazarillo) to a blind beggar to serve an apprenticeship, where he learns about the various levels of society, the ills, and the hypocrisies. Lazarillo is the fore-runner of anti-heroes such as Tom Jones and Huckleberry Finn. The book appeared on the list of forbidden books of the Spanish Inquisition, due to its critical stance regarding authority (the Catholic Church and the aristocracy). [http://www.classicspanishbooks.com/lazarillo-de-tormes.html]
Jen in front of the statue to Lazarillo de Tormes
Next: University and the conch house