The University of Salamanca It is the oldest in Spain and one of the first created in Europe. It dates from the year 1218, when the cathedral schools, which were study rooms for clergy, took the rank of General Study and later became a University in 1254. Its history and prestige motivated me to visit one of its emblematic buildings during my stay in the city.
I started the tour of the Fonseca Residence Hall, which is the only one that is preserved of the four Major Schools that existed in Salamanca in the 16th century. It was founded in 1519 by the Archbishop of Santiago, Alonso de Fonseca, to shelter Galician students and is currently used as a residence for postgraduates and visiting professors. The most interesting part of the building is its large central courtyard around which its rooms and the chapel are distributed, with its square-plan apse and a beautiful altarpiece by Alonso Berruguete.
Then I went to University main building, the one with the Plateresque façade, the so-called Major Schools and where the library, the chapel and the auditorium are located. There were elections for representatives in the university cloister and the auditorium was fully occupied by the electoral tables in the process of voting. What a contrast! In that same place, the famous incident between General Mllán Astray and Rector Unamuno had taken place on October 12, 1936, during the Opening Ceremony of the Course, in which shouts of: Long live death! intelligence !, to which the rector replied with a few words that can be summarized as "you will win, but you will not convince." Unamuno, confined to his home, died on December 31 of that year. Also in that same place, on May 8, 1954, General Franco had been awarded an “Honoris Causa” doctor, a title that was rejected by the government of the University on April 30, 2008. What has not been rejected or withdrawn the Town Hall is the medallion of the general that is in the Plaza Mayor with kings and conquerors. Of course, they have covered it with a transparent plastic so that it does not stain with the graffiti and egg launches that from time to time seem to happen.
At the exit of the building, I entertained myself for a while looking at the facade, trying to locate the plateresque ornament the famous frogIt is said that the student who does not locate it before examining, surely fails and as one, although older, always has a pending subject to pass, just in case I did not leave there until I found it.
I walked past the Rectorate and the statue of Fray Luis de León to address the Minor Schools. There, in a fairly well equipped outbuilding, is "the sky of Salamanca", a vault painted by Fernando Gallego, a painter from Salamanca? from the end of the 15th century, in which various constellations of the sky are represented. Originally the painting was in the vault of the old university library, which is now the chapel. The semi-darkness in which the place is enveloped invites you to contemplate for a long time and in silence the dimly lit “sky”.
I still had to visit the place where it seems that the first classes began to take place, the cloister of the Old Cathedral. For this I had to access the New Cathedral and from there, to the cloister, first passing through the Romanesque cathedral that is completely attached to the so-called new cathedral because it began to be built in the 16th century. Almost nothing remains of the primitive cloister, but there is the chapel of Santa Bárbara at the entrance of which there is a plaque reminding that in that chapel the rector of the University was proclaimed, which by the way until the 18th century could be a student. Doctoral examinations were also held there. The applicant spent 24 hours locked up preparing the issues that he later had to defend in court. If he approved, he would leave the cloister through the main door of the cathedral, receiving all the congratulations from friends and colleagues. If he failed, he would go out through the back door, called the car door, alone and humiliated.
I left the cathedral hungry and tired so, closing the tour and after looking out over the Tormes river, I went to recharge my batteries at the Plaza 23 restaurant in the Plaza Mayor where I ate half a portion of Iberian ham and a beef tenderloin, which was delicious, while I watched from the restaurant's balcony the movement of people through the beautiful Plaza Mayor in Salamanca.