ZAMORA: PLACES TO VISIT
On the banks of the River Duero, its name dates back to Roman times, when it was known as Ocellum Duri (The Eyes of the Duero). Since the 11th century, it has been called Zamora.
Its origins go back to the Vaccaei, who were a pre-Roman Celtic people. Later, it was occupied by the Romans who fought with Viriathus. Zamora’s flag, called Seña Bermeja, has eight red stripes that represent Viriathus’ victories over the Romans, and a green stripe that symbolises Queen Isabella I of Castile’s triumph over Juana la Beltraneja at the Battle of Toro. The warm blankets of Zamora are often made in these colours.
Zamora was destroyed several times during the Muslim invasion, twice by Almanzor. It was eventually reconquered in the 11th century by King Ferdinand I of León, who repopulated it with highlanders and later gave it to his daughter Doña Urraca. There were continual disputes between the siblings for this territory and its defence led to the popular saying “Zamora was not won in an hour”.
These events are also included in the Castilian romance “Oath of Santa Gadea”. Vellido Dolfos killed Urraca of Zamora’s brother King Sancho II to benefit Alfonso VI, whom the Cid made swear that he had not participated in the death of his brother Sancho. Through the treaty of Zamora, signed in this city in 1143, the kingdom of León recognised Portugal as a separate kingdom.
As the reconquest advanced, Zamora gradually became weaker and, with the discovery of America, many people from Zamora emigrated to seek their fortune. The Napoleonic invasion put a stop to the resurgence of the city, which put up a brave fight.
The moment of greatest splendour of Zamora’s art is the Romanesque period, which is why this city is known as “the pearl of Romanesque art”. The cathedral of Salvador has a scaled dome, which is its most outstanding feature and the symbol of the city. The San Pedro y San Ildefonso Church is the largest and contains a baroque portico by Joaquín Churriguera. Santa María de Horta, San Juan de Puerta Nueva and Santiago del Burgo are also Romanesque. In the San Andrés church, there is the Renaissance sepulchre carved in alabaster by Antonio Sotelo, a knight from Zamora who participated in the conquest of Mexico alongside Hernán Cortés; and in the church of Santiago el Viejo where, according to tradition, El Cid “the champion” was knighted. Outside the walls is the Church of San Claudio de Olivares, considered the oldest church in Zamora.
And as examples of civil architecture we have the medieval walls and the castle. La Alhóndiga del Pan and the Hospital de la Encarnación, as well as the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de Viriato are all Renaissance in style. The Palace of the Momos, with a Gothic-style façade; the Palace of the Cordón, so called because of the cord of St Francis carved in stone on the façade; and the Palace of the Counts of Alba and Aliste, now a Parador hotel.
Zamora has a noteworthy, extensive ensemble of modernist buildings, such as the Ramos Carrión theatre, the Aguiar building and the Círculo de Zamora. The most relevant religious event is Holy Week, with the silent procession and the sermon of the seven words, among others.
Puebla de Sanabria is a small town on the outskirts of Zamora. It has a glacial lake, the Lagoons of Villafafila, for bird lovers; the city of Toro, with its Romanesque collegiate church of Santa Maria; and the Sierra de la Culebra.
As well as wine and cheeses with designation of origin, local dishes include Fuentesaúco chickpeas and veal from Aliste. Other dishes worth trying are Zamora-style rice and ‘figones’, a kind of battered chorizo sausage with ham and cheese. There are also delicious pastries such as ‘cañas zamoranas’, ‘rebojos’ y ‘bollo coscarón’.