August 30th, 2008


St. Spaceman of Salamanca

When I was in Salamanca, I did what all visitors must do: search the Doorway of Wreaths at the New Cathedral for the spaceman.

Work on the New Cathedral began in 1513 and went on for 220 years, so that while the architecture is Gothic, the decorations are Renaissance, specifically Plateresque. This style means "silverwork" since it's as ornamental as silver filigree, but in the case of Salamanca, it's made with the local golden sandstone.

In fact, everything in Salamanca, new or old, is made of that stone, which comes from a local quarry, and the harmony of these splendid buildings, which span 1000 years of styles, have given Salamanca the nickname The Golden City and earned it the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The stone is a bit soft, though, and sometimes it needs upkeep or even replacement. The tradition among Salamanca stonecarvers is to leave hints about when they did their work. The doorway was last repaired in the late 20th century, and what says "20th century" better than an astronaut taking a spacewalk amid the wreaths?

(For photos from around the world of castles and other interesting buildings visit: )

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