Salamanca, city (1990 pop. 162,037), capital of Salamanca prov., W central Spain, in Castile-León, on the Tormes River, c.2,600 ft (790 m) above sea level. Food-processing and tourism are its most important industries. An ancient city, it was taken by Hannibal in 220 B.C. The Moors were driven out in 1085. Salamanca became world famous after the foundation (1218) of its university by Alfonso IX. The university soon rivaled Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, and it made Arabic philosophy available to the Western world. In the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance, Salamanca was the center of Christian Spanish cultural life and the fountainhead of Spanish theology. In the Peninsular War the city was in part demolished (1811) by the French. It was (1937–38) the capital of the Insurgents in the Spanish civil war. Salamanca is rich in architectural interest; there is a Roman bridge in the city. The Plaza Mayor is among the finest colonnaded squares in Spain. Adjoining the old Gothic cathedral (12th cent.) is the imposing new cathedral (1513–1733), in which the Gothic, plateresque, and baroque styles are combined. The university building (15th cent.) has a richly adorned facade and possesses a library with precious manuscripts. There are many splendid palaces, notably the Casa de las Conchas, named for the scallop shells on its facade, and the Casa de la Salina, with a picturesque patio.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.