MONUMENT WALKING TOUR
We start our architectural adventure in the Plaza Mayor, or Main Square:
the nexus of the commercial sector of town with the historic area. Here, we can appreciate
the difference between two distinct eras in the old Town Hall, now a police station, which
was built in the times of the Catholic Monarchs and stands opposite the new Town Hall whose
arches were constructed in 1766 although the latest reconstruction only dates back to the last century.
The Romanesque jewel of the Main Square is the church of San Juan de Puerta Nueva (12th century), with the most elegant rose window in Zamora on its south side. On top of the tower we contemplate a reproduction of a weather-vane imitating a popular folk figure known as the “Peromato”. The original can be seen in the Museo Provincial.
Strolling down Corral Pintado street we arrive at the plaza of Santa María la Nueva, where we can admire the Romanesque church of the same appellation. The impressively attractive chancel hides a Baroque Cristo Yacente (Recumbent Christ) in its interior. This overwhelming work of Francisco Fermín can be admired wandering the streets in the procession of the same name the night of Maundy Thursday. Right next to this church, we find the Museo de Semana Santa (Easter Museum) where a large portion of the pasos (or religious statues) that are carried by the fraternal orders during Holy Week are on exhibit the rest of the year.
The Museo Etnográfico de Castilla y León towers over Barandales street and invites us to learn about the history of our region through the daily lives of its people. This street brings us to one of the most emblematic plazas of Zamora. Hidden among the London Plane trees, the statue of Viriato, a Portuguese shepherd and legendary hero of Zamora, presides over the plaza named after him. The surrounding buildings include the Antique Hospital de la Encarnación (17th century) which is the current seat of the Diputación Provincial, and on the opposite side of the square, we find the Palace of the Counts of Alba de Aliste (15th century) which has been converted into a Parador Hotel. On one of the corners of the plaza, what was the church of la Concepción (17th century) now is home to the Archivo Histórico Provincial. Next to the Archive going towards the river, we find the house of culture library and finally the Romanesque church of San Cipriano which like many other churches in town was partially rebuilt in the 12th century. The oldest preserved part of the church is the apse and some relief sculptures which were reused on its exterior walls.
Continuing our route down Rua de los Francos, we come across a popular favorite in town: the church of la Magdalena. Its richly ornate facade makes it one of the most beautiful temples of the town. Despite its late construction, as work continued until the 13th century, it is considered one of the most elegant and emblematic representations of Zamora’s particular Romanesque style, mostly thanks to its abundant sculptures decorating the facade. It belonged to the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem. .
Opposite the Magdalena, the Convento del Tránsito with its coat of arms of the Osorio family above the lintel speaks of the family that financed its construction in the 16th century.
We continue down the street until we reach the Iglesia de San Ildefonso whose neoclassical façade hides the original Romanesque walls behind it. Inside the church and above the High Altar the remains of Saint Ildephonse (patron saint of the city along with Saint Peter) and Saint Attilanus rest. A lovely and discrete arch supporting one side of the church leads us to the other facade: the south side which is supported by two svelte flying buttresses which rest on what was once the palace of the Marqueses de Villagodio, and is now the Convento de las Marinas.
The plaza de Fray Diego de Deza, popularly known as the plaza of the lime blossoms, leads us to yet another plaza: Arias Gonzalo. Here we find the infamous Mirador del Troncoso with the most spectacular view of the majestic Duero River and its bridges.
Leaving this scenic viewpoint behind, the narrow Troncoso Street widens into the plaza of Antonio del Águila and its harmonious gardens which, in turn, take us to the Cathedral.
The infamous Cathedral of Zamora is known as “the pearl of the Duero” or “the Jewel of the Romanesque”. Built upon the ruins of the previous basilica destroyed by Almanzor in 986 A.D., work began in 1151 A.D. and the church was consecrated in 1174 A.D. only 23 years later. Without a doubt, the most amazing and original aspect of the temple is its magnificent dome with Byzantine influences. A fire destroyed the north side of the church and the cloisters in 1591 A.D. A new cloister was built in the 17th century along with the main entrance which has the aspect of a triumphal arch. The south side, or Bishop’s side, is the only remaining original wall where among its decorative elements we can contemplate a Byzantine Virgin with Child.
Next to the Cathedral, we find the Casa del Cid Campeador where, according to legend, this outstanding warrior lived in Zamora thanks to the hospitality of the governor at that time: Arias Gonzalo.
Continuing north along Postigo Street we run into the Romanesque church of San Isidoro which dates back to the times of Alfonso VII the Emperor and his sister Sancha, and whose construction was inspired by the relocation of the remains of Saint Isidore from Seville to León. Next to this church we find the mythical Portillo de la Traición (Traitor’s Gate), recently also called Portillo de la Lealtad (Loyalty Gate), through which Bellido Dolfos ran to safety in the 11th century after having assassinated King Sancho II of Castile during the infamous siege known as el Cerco de Zamora.
Among the lush gardens surrounding the Cathedral, we discover the Castle of Zamora, recently renovated and opened to the public in 2009. The archaeological treasures found during the restoration and now on display include cisterns, Visigoth tombs, smelting ovens, water channels, a water well, towers and much more.
If we then go south through the Bishop’s Arch next to la Casa del Cid, and continue down to the river, we can contemplate the Aceñas de Olivares. These flour mills with waterwheels from the 10th century were the first industry of our city. At first, they belonged to the monarchy of León. In the 12th century, they became property of the Church until the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal in the 19th century when they were acquired by nobles in Zamora who better exploited them and put them to new uses.
Next to the mills, we can appreciate the Romanesque church of San Claudio de Olivares in the neighborhood sharing the same name. It was probably founded in the 12th century. Yet another Romanesque church stands not far away: Santiago de los Caballeros. According to legend, el Cid the great warrior was knighted in this temple by King Ferdinand I of León.