This is one of the most stunning arcaded squares in all Spain. The Plaza Mayor was constructed from 1729 to 1755 in the Baroque style by the architect Alberto Churriguera. Apart from being the heart of the town it is one of the most harmonious and beautiful squares in the country. The building north in the square houses the city hall Plaza Mayor is the ultimate Spanish plaza and a fine place to nurse a cup of coffee and watch the world go by. The town hall grandly overlooks the square, and the Arch of the Bull leads to the nearby covered market. Imagine the excitement of the days, just a hundred years ago, when bullfights were held in that square. The medallions on the pillars and spandrels represent personalities closely linked to the city's history (Kings of Spain, Unamuno, Fray Luis de Leon…). The effect of light and shade is enhanced by the colour of the Villamayor stone being subtly set off by the grey of the granite columns. Inside the square arches stand numerous cafés, shops and restaurants where people can enjoy the friendly atmosphere of Salamanca.
There are two cathedrals in Salamanca: the old cathedral and the new one. In the beginning of the 15th century it was decided that Salamanca needed a bigger and more splendorous cathedral and it was built at the behest of King Ferdinand the Catholic. This new cathedral begun in 1513 and finished in 1733, and was built next to the old one, just over the left nave who was destroyed, and was designed by the architects Anton de Egas and Alonso Rodriges. But due to the long period of time it took to finish the cathedral, there was added other architectural styles to the original Gothic plans such as Renaissance and Baroque elements. The cathedral is notable for its ornate Plateresque facade and sumptuous wood carving. Work on a late Gothic-Style design commenced in 1513 under the supervision of Juan Gil de Hontañón, the son of Juan continued the work, introducing Renaissance touches, such as the decorative addition of medallions. Towards the end of the XVIth century, Juan de Ribero took charge of the project, envisaging a plan with two towers that eventually came to nothing. The Lisbon earthquake (1755) caused serious damage to the tower. The main façade, facing Calle Cardenal Plá y Deniel, is an example of Flamboyant Gothic and contains an exuberant amalgam of decoration. You can try to spot an astronaut, the brainchild of the new stonemasons responsible for restoring the jambs whose stone had deteriorated. Inside, the main chapel, choir stalls and the wall enclosing the choir are all by Churriguera. Then there is the Golden Chapel and the Retable of Christ of the Battles, containing the Romanesque carving that accompanied El Cid is his exile.
The construction of the old cathedral began in 1140 and took more than a century to conclude, hence explain the presence of typically Romanesque elements alongside Gothic features. The original cruciform ground plan had a nave and two aisles with their corresponding apses but when the New Cathedral was constructed, the entire left side was razed. Rising above the transept crossing is the popular scallop-tiled Cock Tower (Torre del Gallo), one of the city's classic landmarks. It consists of a ribbed umbrella lantern of Byzantine influence. The altarpiece in the central absidal chapel is an ensemble of 53 panels painted by Nicholas of Florence in the XVth century, narrating the life of Jesus and Mary and the dramatic Last Judgment fresco, with Jesus directing condemned souls into the jaws of hell. Centre stage of this outstanding gallery of colour is the city's patron saint, the Virgin of the Vega. It is through the New Cathedral that one can enter the Old.