Old City of Salamanca

Salamanca, Spain

This ancient university town of Salamanca was first conquered by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C. It then became a Roman settlement before being ruled by the Moors until the 11th century. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, reached its high point during Salamanca's golden age. The city's historic centre has important Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. The Plaza Mayor, with its galleries and arcades, is particularly impressive.

Beginning with the Roman Bridge that spans the River Tormes southwest of the city, numerous structures still testify to the two thousand year-old history of antique Salmantica. The remarkable examples include the Old Cathedral and San Marcos (12th century), the Salina and the Monterrey Palaces (16th century), and above all the Plaza Mayor (1729-1755). But the city owes its most essential features to the University. The remarkable group of buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, which, from the 15th to 18th centuries, rose to the institution that proclaimed itself “Mother of Virtues, Sciences, and the Arts” makes Salamanca an exceptional example of an old university town in the Christian world, such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The Cathedral School of Salamanca existed as far back as the late 12th century. The oldest university building in Salamanca, now the Rectorate, is the old Hospital del Estudio, built in 1413, with the final element of the building programme begun in 1533.

Salamanca provides one of the oldest examples of university facilities conceived as such rather than as colleges. However, the city also boasted many colleges, which were generally charitable institutions with close ties to the University.

Most of these buildings are located in the Old Quarter of the city. However, other monuments, located in the surroundings of the protected core area, are also part of the property. All are magnificent examples of religious architecture belonging to different styles: the Romanesque churches of San Marcos, San Juan de Barbalos, and San Cristóbal, the convents of Las Claras and Santa Teresa, the Gothic-Renaissance church of Sancti Spiritus, and the Colegio de los Irlandeses. 

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Saint-Eustache

The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.

The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.

According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.

The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.

The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.

With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.