Partial view of the dome of Zamora cathedral © Turespaña
Door of the church Of La Magdalena. Zamora © Turespaña
Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor. Toro, Zamora © Turespaña
This route includes a visit to the cities of Zamora and Toro, two outstanding monumental sites whose highlights include their Romanesque architecture. Both cities are home to mediaeval bridges across the waters of the Duero river, and have a rich history featuring numerous battles and legendary conquests.
The city of Zamora has the largest collection of Romanesque buildings in the whole of Spain (around thirty). The keep of its castle and the three enclosures within its walls (11th-13th century), with the gateways of El Obispo and Doña Urraca enclosing the historic quarter of the city, are a testament to its past on the frontier between Christian and Muslim territories.
The wall also has another opening known as the Portillo de la Traición (Traitors' gate) through which, according to legend, the knight Vellido Adolfo abandoned the city when it was surrounded by the troops of Sancho II of Castile. On that night, feigning his betrayal of Queen Urraca, he crept to King Sancho's tent to assassinate him (1072). This is one of the most often recounted events in mediaeval chronicles, ballads and chansons de geste (for example, in the 'Cantar de Sancho II').
Very nearby stands the tower of the cathedral of El Salvador, the most important Romanesque building in the city. Built in the 12th century, its influences are French, Arab and even Byzantine (its famous ribbed dome). As with most of the Romanesque churches in Zamora, it was also built using the traditional Zamoran pudding stone, a rock whose oxidation gives it its characteristic ochre and reddish tones.
A walk around the city leads just a short distance away to a genuine 'festival of Romanesque archirecture'. Examples include the churches of San Claudio de Olivares, Santa María de la Horta, Santo Tomé, Santa María Magdalena, Santiago del Burgo, San Cipriano, San Pedro y San Ildefonso, San Juan de Puerta Nueva and Santa María la Nueva, all dating from the 11th-12th centuries. Also worth mentioning are works in other styles, such as the Gothic-Renaissance church of San Andrés (16th century), and the ensemble of Gothic-Renaissance noble houses (15th-16th centuries), including particularly the House or Palace of Los Momos.
Without a doubt a very special time to visit Zamora is during Easter week. This event has taken place since the 13th century, and one of its distinctive features is the Gregorian chants which accompany the processions.
The route then continues on to the city of Toro, thirty kilometres away. This is also an important wine-producing centre for wines with the Toro Designation of Origin, and every year on 12 October is the site of the popular Wine Harvest festival.
In Toro, once the scene of an important medieval court —its fortress and part of the walls with three gateways are still preserved in good condition, in additional to seven round towers—, the Romanesque style takes on a different hue. Several of its churches (centuries 12th-13th centuries) are in the Mudéjar style, such as the churches of San Lorenzo, El Salvador, San Pedro del Olmo and the shrine of Santa María de la Vega. There are also various other churches well worth visiting in the city, in addition to a series of exceptionally valuable palaces and Gothic and Renaissance stately homes.
However, its most important building is the collegiate church of Santa María, also dating from the 12th-13th centuries. Its style is modelled on the cathedrals of Zamora and Salamanca, as can be seen from its vault, crowned by a lovely ribbed dome. It is also worth noting the doorway of La Majestad, decorated with a series of beautiful sculptures.
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