The rivers that, cross the northern meseta go to form a wide variety of landscapes and areas of great natural beauty. The river Duero, as it crosses from east to west, separates the so-called 'Tierra del Pan' (lit.: 'Land of Bread') in the north from the 'Tierra del Vino' ('Land of Wine') in the south. In the north-east, the river Esla flows into the fertile Benavente plain, the valleys of El Orbigo and El Coa, and the area known as 'Tierra de Campos'. The Tera runs in a north-westerly direction as far as La Sanabria, while the river Alisto gives Its name to a wild and rugged area. The Duero joins the Tormes close to the border with Portugal, surrounding the area known as El Sayago where the socalled 'arribes' lie. The areas of Toro. Guareña and 'Tierra del Vino' are located around the Lower Duero. This entire region of unspoilt natural beauty still preserves its age-old customs and traditions, thus helping to enrich the cultural heritage of the Autonomous Community of Castile-León.
The province of Zamora was settled by the ancient civilisations of the Duero Valley, and of all the archaeological remains to be found perhaps the most important is the so-called 'Tesoro de Arrabalde' which dates from the Iron Age. This region was also inhibited by the Romans and the Visigoths, but it was the terrible attacks provoked by the Moorish invasion which were to leave these lands wilderness right up until the 9thc The subsequent development of guilds and a flourishing of the arts in towns and monasteries was to lead to the province enjoying its most important period during the 12th c.
As a result of its location close to the border with Portugal, Zamora was of great strategic importance and was the scene of many historic events. These include the internal struggles within the kingdoms of Castile and León during the 11th c: the war between the followers of Queen Isabella and Juana ‘ La Beltraneja’ in the ‘Comuneros’ (supporters of the ‘comunidades’ in Castile ) against Carlos I during the 16th c.
Not to be missedZamora A Romanesque Museum
Zamora's origins go back many centuries. It was settled by the "Vaccei' people and also by the Carthaginians and Romans, legend has it that Viriato, the ‘terror romanorum’, was born here. He was a famous warrior who won eight consular battles. The city has recognised this fact by dedicating a monument in his honour. The Most Noble and Most Loyal city of Zamora, as King Enrique IV entitled it, stands at the right-hand bank of the Duero on the Santa Marta rocks (the so-called 'peñas tajadas' or 'jagged rocks'). The latter mark out its Iimits and served as the foundations for its first walls, built in the year 893. A century later, Almanzor captured the city, although it eventually became a part of the Christian Kingdoms many years later.
King Fernando I described it as: 'Zamora la bien cercada' (the well-walled city), and it was he who rebuilt and repopulated the town before bequeathing it to his daughter, Doña Urraca. The well-known expression: ‘no se ganó Zamora en una hora’ ('Zamora was not won in an hour’) came about when Sancho II tried to seize the city by laying seige to it for what turned out to be a long and ardous time. The people of Zamora resisted most valiantly. The 'Portillo de la Traición' (Traitor's Gate) serves as a reminder of the death of the monarch before the walls that he was besieging, an act perpetrated by Bellido Dolfos who then scaled the walls following the crime. The old quarter of Zamora is classed as a historic and artistical site, and the entire city is given a medieval atmosphere, particularly thanks to its walls and gates e.g Puertas de Zambranos, Doña Urraca and Olivares; the House of El Cid; the castle: the Romanesque churches; the Renaissance palaces: the narrow cobbled streets and the extraordinary Byzantine dome of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral stands on the western side of the city and was founded by King Alfonso VII in 1135. It was built between 1151 and 1174, a relatively short time period, and reflects a unity of style of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic. Later on it underwent restoration work and was added to, particularly following fires. Additions include El Salvador Tower (13th c), the Gothic west end (15th c), the 17th-c cloisters (in the style of Juan de Herrera) and the Neo-classical north façade. The only original Romanesque portal is the one on the south side where the gate known as 'Puerta del Obispo' is located.
The most interesting aspect of the Cathedral is the dome of the lantern. It is decorated with 'fish-scale' tiles, and the use of pendentives to support the dome denotes the Byzantine influence. In between the two we find a drum with 16 windows taking the form of pointed arches. The external decoration is completed by four small turrets which contrast sharply with the straight lines of another four pediments. Inside, the Cathedral consists of a nave and two aisles in the shape of a Roman cross. The chancel contains an 18th-c reredos -the work of Ventura Rodríguez- depicting the Transfiguration of Christ. The previous reredos (dating from the 15th c) was Gothic and was the work of Fernando Gallego. He also worked on San Ildefonso Chapel. Other interesting aspects include the choir stalls, dating from the 16th c and probably the work of Rodrigo Alemán. They contain biblical figures and saints as well as somewhat daring carvings depicting, lusty carryings-on between monks and nuns; the 18th-c Romanesque-Gothic stone sculpture of the Virgin of La Majestad, or 'la calva'; the 15th-c Gothic-Flemish tomb of Doctor Juan de Grado; the 16th c image of El Cristo de las Injurias; as well as wrought-iron screens and pulpits.
The Cathedral Museum exhibits a most valuable collection of Flemish tapestries. These include the four depicting the Trojan War and Tarquinius Priscus (15th c), the ones depicting the Parable of the Vineyard and the Story of Hannibal (16th c). There is also a fine 16th-c silver monstrance which was influenced by the silversmith Arfe, and a marble statue of the Virgin and Child and the young St. John.Churches And Monasteries
The numerous Romanesque churches that were built here in the 12th c belong to the style particular to the area around the Duero Basin. In Zamora these churches acquired clearly Mozarabic influences, as seen by the poly-lobed arches and the absence of a tympanum, etc. Along with the Cathedral, these churches justify the description of Zamora as a 'Romanesque Museum'. The Church of San Cipriano has a fine stained-glass window, semicircular arches, columns with capitals and an outstanding screen. The Church of Santa María La Nueva has an original construction that probably dates back to the 7th c. It bore witness to the socalled 'motín de la trucha' (lit.: the 'trout revolt') which was directed against the privileges of the nobility, and caught fire in 1158. Following the fire a replica of the former church was built. Inside can be seen an impressive sculture of a recumbent Christ -the work of Gregorio Fernández. In the Church of La Magdalena there is a beautiful portal with a rose window and archivolts bearing an unusual vegetable design, and inside we find an outstanding funeral sculpture.
The Church of San Juan de Puerta Nueva stands in the Plaza Mayor. It also boasts a fine façade and a cartwheel rose window which is a very representative aspect of the city. The Church of Santiago del Burgo is located at the very heart of Zamora and dates from the same time as the Cathedral. It has the remains of its nave and two aisles as well as a large proportion of the rest of the construction. One of the most graceful towers in the city can be seen at tile Church of San Vicente, whereas the Church of San Ildefonso preserves the mortal remains of the first Bishop of Zamora and those of the Toledan Archbishop of the same name. It contains a 16th-c Flemish triptych which was a gift from King Carlos I. The Church of Santo Tomé has capitals decorated with figures and plants as well as some well-decorated archivolts. Of the Church of San Esteban all that remains is its shell, and the Church of Santa Maria de la Orta belonged to the Knights Templar and has capitals decorated in a variety of styles. All these previously mentioned churches form part of the old walled town.
Legend has it that El Cid was dubbed a knight in tile Church of Santigo de los Caballeros. Also outside the city walls stands the Church of San Claudio de Olivares, dating from the time of King Fernando I, and which has chequered cornices and corbels. The Church of San Andrés is something of an exception since it dates from the 16th c and is in the Renaissance style. It comprises a nave and two main chapels connected by an arch. Inside there are two fine reredoses and an exceptional tomb by Pompeyo Leoni. With reference to the many monasteries within Zamora, one of the most important is the Monastery of Santa María la Real de las Dueñas. It still preserves one of the doors that belonged to the original 13th-c structure, though the rest was altered during the 16th c. The Monastery of Nuestra Señora del Tránsito contains the beautiful image of the virgin, dressed in typical 17th-c attire. The ruins of the 14th-c Monastery of San Francisco are located on the other side of the bridge known as El Puente de Piedra (the Stone Bridge).Civil Architecture
In the old streets of Zamora that wind steeply down to the riverside and bear the names of former guilds e.g. Herreros (blacksmiths) and Arpilleros (sackcloth sellers), and the small and peaceful squares, there are many fine buildings to be encountered. The Palace of the Counts of Alba de Aliste, for example, is located in the Plaza de Viriato and is a Renaissance construction dating from the 15th and 16th c. Its rather austere façade conceals a magnificent double-galleried courtyard. The Lower gallery has columns with bas-reliefs depicting mythological, biblical and historical characters, whereas the upper gallery, bears the family coat-of-arms. The beautiful staircase is reached via two segmental arches which have sculpted friezes, and this decoration is repeated on the banisters. The Palace has now been converted into a Parador. On the opposite side stands the 17th-c Hospital de la Encarnación -today the site of the Council Offices.
Puñoenrostro Palace (also known as El Cordón Palace) dates from the 16th c and is situated in the secluded Plaza de Santa Lucía. On its façade can be seen the coat-of-arms of the Counts of Puñoenrostro surrounded by a Franciscan cord ('cordón' in Spanish). hence its popular name.The gargoles on the eaves also catch the eye. The Palace has been fitted out as the Zamora Museum of Fine Arts, and has some outstanding exhibits in its Archaeological section (e.g. the 'Tesoro de Arrabalde', bell-shaped vessels, Roman mosaics and Visigothic liturgical objects) and Fine Arts section (sculptures and paintings). Los Momos Palace was built by Pedro de Ledesma in the 16th c. It is in the Gothic-Isabelline style and today only its façade remains, now forming part of the Courthouse.
The Holy Week Museum is a new construction located in the Plaza de Santa María and contains most of the processional 'floats' which ,are paraded during the Holy Week festivities. There are works by Benlliure, Ruiz de Zumeta and the Román Alvarez school.The city of Zamora has undergone three extensions towards the north-east. The bandstand, Principal Theatre and the bullring all date from the 19th c, whereas the iron bridges, the main market and the old casino are from the beginning of this century. The Santa Clara building is a Modernist construction, while the Rationalist buildings of the 1940's have all been replaced by modern constructions. The very heart of modern-day Zamora is centred around the bustling Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Sagasta and Santa Clara street, now only for pedestrians and full of shops and businesses. Those interested in 'el tapeo' (a kind of pub crawl where one tries a variety of different hors d'oeuvres) should make for the area around the Plaza Mayor and Herreros street, La Farola district as well as Pablo Morillo and Flores de San Torcuato streets. By way of contrast to urban life, one may find a more relaxing atmosphere in La Marina park, the Paseo de los Tres Árboles and especially the beautiful Valorio forest.
Hunting and Fishing
The National Hunting Reserves of Sierra de La Culebra and Las Lagunas de Villafáfila, along with many other hunting preserves, are ideal for hunting partridge and other species of small games, providing of course that the close season and certain protected species- are respected. Large game hunting may also be practised in the Sierra de La Culebra under the same conditions. The rivers Duero, Esla, Tera, Orbigo and Valderaduey have fishing grounds where a variety of species can be found, and in the region of La Sanabria there are trout fishing grounds, including some 35km of river and the lake, which can offer the angler endless opportunities for the practice of this sport.
The names of the typical regions e.g. ‘Tierra del Pan', ‘Tierra del Vino’ etc., set a standard for the richness of a characteristic local cooking that offers some unbeatable dishes. Examples include ‘presas de ternera' (veal dish) and other succulent roast dishes: 'bacalao a Ia tranca' (cod dish) and ‘pulpo a la sanabresa' (octopus), both seasoned with the strong, and spicy ‘mojo’ sauce; the famous chickpeas and asparagus from Fuentesaśco and salmon trout from Sanabria. Two special dishes are 'dos y pringada' and 'la sanantonada', and all these dishes can be accompanied by the wines from the 'Tierra del Vino', particularly the full-bodied reds from Toro and the clarets from Benavente, Sanzoles and Moraleja. Typical confectionery takes the form of 'el rebojo' (sponge cake dipped in flour), 'magdalenas' (small sponge cakes), and 'aceitadas', the latter being eaten typically during Holy Week.
Holy Week in Zamora has been declared of International Tourist Interest and brings out the solemnity of typical customs and traditions associated with this religious event. The festivities date back to the 14th c and take the form of 16 brotherhoods displaying 42 processional 'floats', in an atmosphere full of pathos and severity. At Bercianos de Aliste, Good Friday is celebrated in a particularly impressive way: they re-enact the burial of Christ and the members of the brotherhood of Santa Cruz dress in white robes which serve as a shroud. On Good Friday in Toro the longest procession in all Spain takes place. Other typical festivities of interest within the province include the Festivities of San Pedro (St. Peter), the main Festivities at Zamora (including a Flamenco Festival): the 'Toro enmaromao' festivities at Benavente: the Eve of Corpus Christi celebrations; the Festivities of 'La Fuente del Vino de San Agustín' -held at Toro on August 28th ; the so-called 'capantos' of Guarrate and Fuentesaúco (celebrated at the beginning of July); the ‘ encierros ‘ (bull running) at Fermoselle; several Carnivals: 'las Candelas' (February 2nd), 'Ias Aguedas' (February 5th) and various religious excursions during the month of May.
Zamora has a great pottery tradition, a fact which can be appreciated by visiting the Pottery Fair of San Pedro, held on the day of the city’s most important festivity. There are some outstanding typical objects from Pereruela, made from a mixture of red clay and kaolin and then lead glazed, including casserole dishes and cooking pots. At Moveros they produce some beautiful flat-handled pitchers out of clay that gives them a fine golden colour. In both places it is the womenfolk who work the clay. Toro is also known for the production of pitchers and cooking pots that have a dark reddish colour. Carbajales de Alba is noted for its typical embroidery, rich in colours and decorated with motifs depicting leaves, flowers and stars. There are workshops at Santibáñez de Vidriales where carpets are produced following traditional methods. They are generally made to order and are a fine example of a textile tradition that, in many other places, has been lost forever.
ExcursionsSan Pedro de la Nave
The 7th-c Church of San Pedro de la Nave, some 20km from Zamora, is one of the oldest and rarest of Visigothic churches left in Spain. In 1930 it was transferred to Campillo, since its original site was to he covered by the waters of the Esla reservoir. It has a simple exterior. built from a reddish sandstone and with ashlars that have no mortar, and is of immense importance in the chain of artistic styles. It takes the form of a Roman cross with a nave and two aisles, and there is a symbiosis between Roman and Oriental elements, preceding the Romanesque style. The horseshoe arches in its portal and inside, so widely used in Hispano-Muslim art in later years, show its Spanish origins. The entrances at either end of the transept are outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture, and there are pictorial capitals showing 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' and 'The Sacrifice of Isaac' that have great power of expression and primitivism. They are also of great artistic value since these did not really become generalised until the Romanesque period. The decoration, made up of spiral circles, stars, birds, animals and masks, is a highly original and varied contribution from Spanish-Visigothic art and is the result of the mixing of Celtic, Germanic and Byzantine elements. Examples of these can be seen in the anthropomorphic symbols on the bases of the columns.The 'Silver Route'
Following the ‘Silver Route’ which connected Zamora to the Roman roads of Saragossa in the north we find the remains of Castrotorafe, a medieval town built over the Roman town of Vicus Acuarius. Near to Granja de Moreruela are the ruins of the 12th-c Moreruela Monastery which has a beautiful superposition of levels of the central apse and the Sacristy.Las Lagunas de Villafáfila
These lagoons go to form the National Game Reserve of Las Lagunas de Villafáfila, which contain a great variety of birds, particularly migratory species. Here can be found common geese, wild geese, mallards, lapwings, herons, white storks, cranes and great bustards. The latter is a protected species and this reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies in Europe.Benavente
Standing between the rivers Orbigo and Esla, Benavente is a typical town of medieval Castile. It is the second largest in the province and enjoys an active industrial and social life. Its most important monuments include the 12th-c Church of San Juan del Mercado, with one of the first Gothic vaults in Spain, which has scenes of the Epiphany and the prophets on the south door that were influenced by Maestro Mateo; the 12th-c Church of Santa María del Azoque, which bears a close resemblance to Moreruela Monastery with respect to its five apses, and which contains Gothic sculptures dating from the 13th-14th c; the Gothic-Renaissance Hospital de La Piedad, founded by the Counts of Pimentel in the 16th c; and the 16th-c Castle of the Counts of Pimentel, in mixture of the Gothic and Renaissance Styles, which was set on fire during the War of Independence and of which only the Caracol Tower remains. It has been converted into the ‘Fernando II de León’ Parador and offers some magnificent views from its gardens.Villalpando
Villalpando is the capital of the area known as 'Tierra de Campos'. It is surrounded by walls and has the two battlemented Gates of San Andrés and Santiago, as well as its typical streets. One of its most outstanding monuments is the Church of Santa María la Antigua. In the valley of the river Tera a visit should be paid to the 12th-c Romanesque Church of Santa Marta del Tera. This has a chequered exterior decoration and a fine south façade, along with some interesting capitals.La Sanabria
This itinerary heads north-west in the direction of Galicia and crosses the Esla reservoir via the bridge known as Puente de la Estrella. In Tábara the traveller may visit its 12th-c church. From this point onwards the road skirts the National Hunting Reserve of the Sierra de la Culebra. This covers an area of some 65.891 ha and is criss-crossed with rivers and streams, all of which flow into the river Tera. The scenery is composed of forests and scrubland, and there is an important population of wolves, stags and roe deer, as well as wild boar. There is also an abundance of red partridge, hares, quails, wood pigeons and turtle doves.Ríonegro del Puente
Rionegro del Puente is of interest because of the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Carballada, and Monbuey has an outstanding 13th-c Romanesque tower.Puebla de Sanabria
Moving further into the region of La Sanabria, perhaps the most picturesque part of the province with its mountains, forests, and meadows, we reach Puebla de Sanabria, the existence of which was already known around the year 569. It stands at the edge of the river Tera. The church dates from the 12th c and the castle from the 15thc and there are many stone houses with slate roofs. It is also the location of comfortable Parador.San Martín de Castañeda
San Martín de Castañeda has some beautiful monuments, including the remains of its monastery and its 13th-c church.Lake Sanabria Nature Park
Some outstandingly beautiful scenery can be enjoyed in this nature park, which is surrounded by the Sierra the Cabrera, the Sierra Segundera and the mountains of Peña Trevinca. Peña Negra and Moncalvo. It covers an area of 5,027 ha and stands at a height of some 2.000 m above sea level. Apart from its tourist and sporting interest, the park offers an ecosystem that indicates the transition between the Atlantic, Mediterranean and mountain climates. Glacial formation is also evident in producing one of our few natural lakes (3.5km long, and 2km wide), as well ,as the other 40 or so lagoons in the area which all have cold and crystal-clear water. There is a rich variety of trees to be found including Turkey oaks, chestnut trees, birch, alder, ash, holly and yew trees, along, with a unique selection of flora. The waterfalls known ‘Las Cascadas del Tera’, located close to the source of the river, and the valley of the river Tuela, near to the beautiful town of Hermisende, are yet more examples of some of the magnificent places that can be visited.oro and the 'Tierra del Vino'
The town of- Toro stands on the banks of the river Duero and is classed as a Historic and Artistical site. Its most outstanding monument is the Romanesque Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor (1160), whose dome is clearly of Byzantine influence. The west portal, also known as 'La Majestad', is 13th-c Gothic and of great beauty. The Museum of Sacred Art exhibits a fine painting of 'La Virgen de la Mosca' as well as a marble reliquary with authentic filigree work. Other important churches include San Lorenzo, a 13th-c Romanesque-Mudéjar construction with a magnificent Gothic reredos: San Sebastián, which has been converted into a Museum of Gothic Paintings and contains those from the Monastery of Santa Clara, San Julián, a late-Gothic construction; the 13th-c Church of San Pedro del Olmo, which has some interesting but very deteriorated paintings; the 12th-c Mudéjar Church of San Salvador, which also has the remains of paintings. The Royal Monastery of El Sancti Spiritus dates from the 14th c and has a Moorish-style coffered ceiling. Important civil constructions include the Santa Catalina and Corredera Gates; the 10th-c Castle, which has undergone, many alterations; the Clock Tower; the Town Hall (known as the 'Consistorio'), built by Ventura Rodríguez in 1778 and Las Leyes Palace, where the Court was held in 1505. This ancient stronghold is further enriched by its stone bridge, bullring (dating from 1828), palaces and mansions, It was also the site of the victory of Queen Isabella over Juana 'La Beltraneja' which enabled her to consolidate the unity of Spain. At the very heart of the 'Tierra del Vino', the towns of Marialba and Toro produce the famous wines that were even quoted by Cervantes. These 'thick' and 'dark' wines can be tasted at a variety of wineries that have been in existence for many centuries. The church at Arcenillas contains the panels belonging to the Gothic reredos of Zamora Cathedral, and were the work of Fernando Gallego.The Itinerary of the Reservoirs and the 'Arribes' of the river Duero
The itinerary running from Ricobayo to Villalcampo and then on to Castro, in the region of Aliste, offers the traveller some fine picturesque scenery. A turn-off leading towards Bermillo de Sayago crosses the impressive Pino bridge, stretching some 90m over the river Duero. It links the regions of Aliste and Sayago. From here a visit to Fermoselle and the 'Arribes' of the river Duero is unavoidable. Fermoselle stands on a hill and its history goes back a long way in the annals of time. It has steep irregular-shaped streets, and the remains of the castle where Bishop Acuña and the 'Comuneros' made their stand. All around there is some magnificent scenery. The so-called 'Arribes' of the river Duero are, in fact, terraced plots of land surrounded by low stone walls. These help contains the soil and the land is used for growing typical Mediterranean crops such as vines, olive trees and fruit trees.