March 10th, 2012
I have to be honest. A visit to a city or large town in Spain is a real pain in the neck.
Well, half the time you will be craning your neck skywards, admiring the fascinating architecture, spirals and sculpture, gargoyles and saints, intricate carving and superb styles that depict Spain and it´s colourful – and sometimes chequered - history. Absolutely do buy a guidebook and swot up before you visit. But, hang on – what do all those terms actually mean? Let´s have a look…
You might be lucky enough to win a fabulous holiday with us if you enter the new €1,000 competition, you´ll almost certainly be clever enough to enter it! So, where is your ideal destination? Let´s take a look at some popular destinations in Spain, and the style of the architecture that defines them…
Cordoba, Seville and Alcázar/Alcazaba
Salamanca and Plateresque
The seat of students for years and years. There are legends about it, famous past lecturers and alumni – and it´s just a really nice place to visit too! Whether you want to wear cap and gown or your best Hawaiian holiday shirt – what is the style of Salamanca?
The guidebooks will describe Plateresque. That´s the early Renaissance style that is prevalent all over Spain – what makes it different is the richly adorned decorative touches, wrought by a Platero, as the name suggests a Silversmith.
The Italian Renaissance style that is recognizable all over Europe can be a little sober in style. Spain with it´s tendancy for over- the- top decided instead to `bling it up´ by the addition of Plateresque, extremely stylized and decorative. Nowhere is more obvious for examples than Salamanca. It´s essentially an indication of the unwillingness to let go of the fancier Gothic and Medieval styles, and is an integration of those and Renaissance. The best examples to look at Plateresque architecture are:
- Palacio de Monterrey
- Convent of the Dueñas
- The University buildings
Granada, Toledo, El Escorial & Herrera or High Renaissance
The famous Alhambra Palace in Granada. Yes, I DO know it’s Moorish! – but the Palace of Charles V within those whispering walls is one of the best examples that you will find of High Renaissance, also known as Herrera. As an architectural dream, you will have to visit it anyway, and will be guaranteed to be blown away with the preserved work and grandeur, as well as the fabulous gardens which add scent and the sound of water to the atmosphere.
Said to be the most romantic place in Spain – I agree!
Toledo of course with it’s walls to protect the charming city within. Climb up to the cathedral and admire the Ochavo, which is the octagonal chapel inside. Here you’ll also find paintings by the artist Greco, who was inspired by the architecture of the day. The man of that particular moment was Juan Bautista of Toledo, educated in Italy he brought home to Spain with him ideas, a fantastic skill and a remarkable talent. His resumé reads like a lengthy book, choose a High Renaissance building and you’ll generally find he was somewhere on the payroll.
His work includes:
- Alcazar of Madrid
- Alcazar of Toledo
- El Escorial – the monastery, aquaduct and ponds.
Valencia, Galicia and Baroque
Valencia has much more to offer you than rice dishes and oranges! Of course, those are nice too!
Between the 17th and 18th centuries, Baroque hit with a bang – undoing all the stuffiness of Renaissance with gusto. Harsh and straight lines became voluptuous and curvy, and jobbing architects learned to play with light and sculpture, to be more expressive and literally breaking the mould.
Be sure to pay a visit to the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas, and take a second look at the marble alabaster entrance – the marble has been moulded to look like water rushing downwards. Inside the style theme continues, and carry on to the Cathedral, where you can admire more examples of Baroque perfection.
The north of Spain and Galicia has a lot to interest and attract the traveller in search of rugged coastline, excellent food and the outdoor life. Really, you won’t ask for a lot more than that! But the architecture is just as important and Galicia is ine the best spots to admire Baroque style, especially if you like scallops and walking!
Of course I’m talking about the most famous pilgrimage in the world – the Santiago de Compostela – or the walk of St James.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, started in 1075 and not completed until 1211 (Spanish builders, eh?) was designed by Fernando de Casas Novoa.
St James brought Christianity to the Celts on these shores, and although he was later beheaded in Jerusalem, his remains – or what was left of them - were returned to Galicia. After being lost they were rediscovered by a hermit who also saw mystical lights falling from the sky. A miracle was declared and the King ordered a church – later on the site the Cathedral - to be built.
Today, come and see the Façades, Nave, Crypt, Altar, Portico de Gloria and of course the sign of St James, the Golden Scallop shell, which is traditionally kissed by pilgrims on their weary walk.