At Plaza Mayor we see a series of remarkable buildings:
Casa del Común. For centuries it was seat of the Commons of Good Men of the city of Soria. The Charters that gave citizenship rights to the people of Soria are preserved in this building.
This building also hosted the Public Library from 1935 to 1968. In 1957 the Casa de Cultura de Soria was created and settled here. Currently it houses also the Local History Archive.
Casa de los Betetas also called Torre de Doña Urraca.
The tower once belonged to the noble family Suero de la Vega, and was used to host nobles visiting Soria. The tower was built in the XV century. It was a high tower with thick walls, built to three stories above a rectangular square, but the third floor was demolished. The tower was attached to the main facade of a palace, built later in Plateresque style. The palace burned in the XVII century, surviving the tower by the thickness of its walls and its height.
Palacio de la Audiencia (pic 2).
A neo-classical building from the XVIII century. This building had different uses along its history: Town Hall, Hall of Justice and Prison. It was restored in 1986 and now it houses two halls for exhibitions, two conference rooms and a theater.
Town Hall or Palacio de los Doce Linajes (pic 3).
The current City Hall is truly noble and notable for the fact it is isolated from all other surrounding buildings. On its façade, an enormous round coat of arms is divided into twelve equal parts, each of which has the shield of a noble house that repopulated Soria in the XVII century. The building belonged to the County Council of the Twelve lineages of Soria.
The palace was built by Martín de Solano in 1629. Since 1897 it’s the seat of the City Hall.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Mayor.
This church was built on the place of the old Romanesque church of San Gil. Some elements of San Gil church were preserved such as the cover, part of the tower, an apsidiole and a tomb. The poet Antonio Machado married his wife Leonor in this church in 1909.
Fuente de los Leones in the centre of the square (pic 4).
It is an ornamental fountain from the XVIII century, made during the reign of Charles IV, in 1798. On a mound of rocks two lions pour water through the mouth of two basins surrounded by two serpents, which spill water on the floor. In the center, a pinnacle is topped by a pineapple.
From this square starts Collado street (pic 5), one of the most commercial and busy streets in Soria.
Alameda de Cervantes
The Dehesa de San Andrés was a space for cattle grazing. In the XVII century it became a municipal property; then only one parte remained as an area for cattle, whereas the lower part was used as a recreational area.
In the first decade of the XXth century the City tried to convert the Dehesa in a recreational area, to the delight the inhabitants. Fences were erected, the gate was fixed and threshing was banned. Since 1905, the Dehesa de San Andrés was named Alameda de Cervantes, but it’s still called the Dehesa by the inhabitants of the city.
In 1924 a bandstand was erected around the Tree of Music, a huge elm tree planted in 1611. Unfortunately the elm died due to the Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease that has devastated millions of elms all over Europe, and was cut in 1988. Now, a young specimen has been planted in the place of the original one, surrounded by the bandstand (pic 1) but I still remember the poster with the image of the large elm shading the bandstand, in the room of my friend from Soria during our University years.
The park is a botanical garden with more than 130 plant species of trees and shrubs, both native and non-native, among them a huge redwood, hundred-year-old horse chestnuts, Ginkgo, Japan quince trees and hibiscus. The park is also a place of residence to find chickadees, jays, hawks, larks, jackdaws, a colony of pigeons and squirrels.
The park houses the shrine of La Soledad (pic 2) and it is a popular playground.
The castle and the walls
There are few remains of the castle but it was once a huge fortress. During the Muslim occupation, there was a simple watchtower. After Alfonso I of Aragon (married to Urraca, Queen of Castile) reconquered the city, his son Alfonso VII built the inner barrier and Sancho IV built the exterior wall.
The city extended between Mirón hill and the Castle hill. The walled area occupied the entire top of the hill and could shelter much of the population. The wall had a length of 4,100 meters, enclosing a surface area of 100 hectares. It was built of reinforced masonry except in corners, in which stones were used. Its layout was following the line of summits of hills borders.
Six gates allowed access to the interior of Soria. General Duran ordered the demolition in the War of Independence, preserving only a few stretches. Four small towers stand, as well as the stretch of wall that came down to the River.
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Near Santo Domingo church there is a series of palaces which are good examples of civil architecture. They are on Calle de la Aduana Vieja.
Starting from Plaza de San Clemente we see:
Palacio Viejo de los Ríos y Salcedo (pics 1 & 2), a Renaissance palace, Plateresque style from the XVI century. The palace is a three-story building built in masonry. The corner window is remarkable, it is technically difficult. The coat of arms of the family is above the window. Facing the square is the façade with a front formed by a round arch and pillars at the sides, flanked by the heraldic shields of the family. Above there is a balcony and again, the shield of the original owners. Today it is National monument.
This family achieved later the title of Condes de Gómara. When they built the Palacio de los condes de Gómara and left this one, the building was occupied by Franciscan nuns, later it housed the headquarters of the Guardia Civil, and at present, it houses the Provincial Historic Archive.
Palacio de los Castejones (pics 3 & 4) is another valuable sample of Plateresque in Soria. Awfully the palace is quite damaged by the state of the stone. It was built in masonry with sandstone. The door makes a segmental arch. The coat of arms of the family on the tympanum is held by two wilds kneeling and naked. On the first floor there is a window whose lintel is in the shape of a shell.
Casa de los Solier (pic 4, right) was built in 1598 by stonemason Martin Solano. It was constructed of masonry. On the first floor there are three balconies topped by triangular pediments. On the upper floor, a gallery consisting of six arches on Tuscan columns. For centuries, the Palace of the Castejon and the Casa de los Solier were part of a single house built in two different styles, hence this does not have its corresponding door. After the construction of some buildings in the garden, a wide door and two windows were opened in the style of the rest of the building.
Palacio de los San Clemente or del Vizconde de Eza (pic 5).
This manor house, built in the XVIII century, belonged to one of the most traditional families of the city of Soria. The San Clemente Chancilleres belonged to one of the twelve founding lineages of Soria.
Built in stonework and masonry, in the front there is a shield with complicated notable Baroque ornamentation.
Palacio de los Condes de Gómara
This palace is the best sample of civil architecture in Soria. Now it is the Hall of Justice.
The Palace of Condes de Gómara was built in the S. XVI in Herreran Renaissance style. The facade, which in its original design was much larger, consists of windows crowned with pediments Herrera, plus the cover, with the shield of the owner. The right side shows a long gallery with 12 Tuscan columns, and 24 Ionian columns in the upper floor. The tower is very robust; it is squared and the large windows are crowned with acroteria. The interior houses a courtyard, typical Castilian, which articulates the other rooms.
San Juan de Duero
In the XII century the order of Saint John of Jerusalem settled in Soria, beyond the Duero, and reformed a Romanesque church, building around their monastery. The cloister, dated back to the early XIII century, is the only part left. This cloister is one of the most original of Spanish Romanesque architecture due to the variety of its features: Romanesque layout, pointed arches tending to horseshoe arches, some arches are interwoven and other secant. Arabic influences are seen in chamfers and corners. The roof doesn’t stand.
Unfortunately the cloister was closed when we went, but instead we enjoyed a nice walk along the Duero river (pics 2 & 3). On the right hand side we saw the Monte de las Animas (Mount of the Souls), a place that inspired a famous legend to Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (pic 4). On the left hand side, across the river, we saw part of the medieval walls of Soria (pic 5).
For pictures of the cloister and church:
San Juan de Rabanera
This church was built in the XII century in late Romanesque style and excellent workmanship. The church has Latin cross shape. It was declared National Monument in 1924. The apse is remarkable (pic 2). It has only two openings and is considered by some scholars the one with the finest layout of the peninsula. The church has a byzantine dome.
In 1908 the front was dismantled, being replaced by the front of the Church of St. Nicholas, now in ruins. Scenes of the life of Christ and the miracles of Saint Nicholas are represented in the tympanum and the capitals (pics 3 & 4). Inside there are two images of Christ, one Gothic and other Baroque. Awfully it was closed and we couldn’t enter.
Santo Domingo church is a late Romanesque church built in the XII century when the early church of Santo Tomé was partially demolished. In the XVI century it was reformed and a Dominican convent was founded annexed to the church. Now it is the Convent of Poor Clares.
The temple has a Latin cross with three naves, the central being larger and covered by a pointed barrel vault and the side naves lower, with half-barrel vault.
La Biblia en piedra
The façade is the most remarkable part of this church. It has a triangular pediment topped by a cross, a large central rosette and rows of blank arches on the sides. Capitals on the jambs of the entry are decorated with biblical scenes from Genesis and the life of Christ. In the tympanum, God the father seated with the Child on His legs, four angels bearing the symbols of the Evangelists, the prophet Isaiah and the Virgin Mary are represented. The first archivolt represents the 24 musicians of the Apocalypse; the 2nd the Massacre of the Innocents, the 3rd scenes of the birth and life of Jesus and the 4th the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The ensemble is called the Holy Bible in stone.
The works were supported by the wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile, Leonor de Plantagenet (Eleanor of England). She was daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and sister of Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland (Juan Sin Tierra in Spanish). She was Queen of Castile between 1170 and 1214, dying only four weeks after the King Alfonso VIII.
The Cloisters of San Juan de Duero
A cloistered monastery was built on this site on the banks of the Duero by the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem.
Now only the remains of the graceful arcading built the 12th -13th century remain.
It is not only one of the most original Romanesque National Monuments in Spain but also one of the most visited monuments in the whole of Castilla y León.
The arches are all beautiful and different, each shows a mixture of Romanesque, Mudejar and Arabic art. The criss-crossing of the arches and medieaval sculpted capitals are amazing to see and one has to wonder at the skill and artistry that went into them and that they have stood there for som many centuries.
The church was not open and some renovation seemed to be underway there.
We had the arcades to ourselves and it was a very tranquil place to spend a little time on a Sunday morning.
Just as we were leaving a large, happy family party arrived. They looked as though they were on their way to a wedding and took lots of photographs of each other before asking us to take a picture of the whole group.
And so we learned that to get everyone smiling for the camera Spanish people sing Lah-lah-lah-lah - so much nicer than our Cheese please!
Visit the old Town
We seemed to be the only people about as we wandered about the old city streets - a living museum of history and architecture. The trees were mostly pollarded and provided interesting shapes through which the elegance of the buildings could be seen clearly.
Laguna Negra is a beautiful lake one hour by car from Soria. His iced black waters and his green stones has inspired writers like Federico Garcia Lorca.
Take N234 road to the west, you'll cross Toledillo, Ocenilla, Cidones, Villaverde del Monte and Herreros, until you arrive to Abejar. In Abejar turn right and take CL177 road to Vinuesa. Once in Vinuesa you have to take SO830, but better ask the locals, Laguna Negra is not far from here, no more that 10 minutes by car.
SAN SATURIO HERMITAGE
Beautiful hermitage in the outskirts of the city in perfect armony with the nature.
Built in the banks of Duero river is a mixture between a cave and a human construction.
Probably the most beautiful monument in Soria.
Take San Agustin street and go to Duero river. You'll find a bridge to cross the river, but you don't have to cross it, just turn right before the river and follow Paseo del Postiguillo. The hermitage is the other bank, you'll see it. It's a little bridge in front of the hermitage.
San Juan de Rabaneda Church
Romanesque church with crucifix floor plan with oriental and classic influences.The apse is decorated with plants motives and there are two pointed spaces.Its main front belongs to the other church, that of San Nicolas.
Closed at siesta time (2pm - 5pm) and on Mondays.
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Santo Domingo Church
Romanesque in style.Built in the XII century with a rich facade.There is a door with four archivolts, tympanum, and large rose window.On both sides of the facade there are two sets of blind arches.Its sculptures are very interesting.There is a strong influence in the building of Santa Mar?a of Poitiers (France). Now a convent of Poor Clare nuns.
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San Juan de Duero Monastery
The monastery is a clear example of Romanesque architecture, with one nave covered with wood, with a semicircular apse and a pointed barrel vault. It belonged to the order of the 'Hospitalarios' society of Jerusalem since the twelfth century until it was abandoned in the eighteenth century. The 12th century church, and the cloister, from the early 13th century, with Gothic and Mudejar architectural elements, are preserved.
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