There are over twenty Romanesque churches inside Zamora, which is to say inside the walled, historic town. If you want to explore all of them it is a daunting prospect! We visited quite a few. The city is small and there was a church around almost every corner so it wasn’t difficult.
San Pedro and San Magdalena
These two churches are both in the Rua de los Francos which leads to the cathedral. San Pedro dates from the 11th century and it was the largest and most important church after the cathedral. King Ferdinand I built the church and there were further modifications over the centuries mean that little of the original Romanesque building remains.
San Magdalena belonged to the Templars1 and when the order was suppressed it was passed to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. This church was much more austere but whenever we popped in there seemed to someone giving a lecture so couldn’t get close to the two tombs for which the church is famous.
Santo Tome dates from the 12th century, with the bell tower added in the 19th century. It might originally have been the church attached to a monastery. Excavations have established that there was a graveyard behind the church and white cobbles mark the site of graves. In 2009-12 it was converted into the Diocesan Museum and photography is forbidden. No photographs inside the building, not even ‘sans flash’.
The church of San Vicente
The church of San Vicente dates from the turn of the 12th century and is close to the third set of walls. The tower is apparently the finest example of its kind in Zamora. But today it is hemmed in by the surrounding buildings. It was very quiet inside but no longer obviously Romanesque.
Santiago del Burgo
This is yet another church which dates from the 12th century. This church was quiet, peaceful and felt very restful and comforting. An open book invited you ask the church to pray for someone in trouble.
The Church of St Cyprian is just round the corner from the Paradore. The lady who volunteers here lives just round the corner and is passionate about ‘her church’. Unlike some of the other buildings it was not covered in Baroque decorations, and retained its austerity. A pilgrim hostel stands in the street outside. Perhaps this church was used by pilgrims as they entered the city from the gate below?
The the interior was once painted. Now it is starkly plain. The small amount of wall painting which remains suggests it would have been quite gaudy! I remember a reconstruction I saw of the Church of St Julian de los Prades in Oviedo. I wonder if we would enjoy the ‘simplicity’ of the Romanesque if we saw it in the original technicolour?
San Isidoro del Carmen
The church dates from the mid-12th century but only the north wall (below) remains from this time. The rest of the building is a century or two later. It is close to the Gate of Traitors, or Gate of Loyalty.
Santa Maria la Nueva
The church was the scene of the so-called Trout Revolt in 1158. The fishmonger was selling his last trout to the shoemake when the servant of a noble arrived and demanded to be given preference. An organised riot followed. The aristocracy gathered in the church to discuss the situation and the crowd barricaded the church, started a fire, and killed off the aristocracy who were mostly inside the building. The rioters were fearful of reprisals and fled to Portugal. However, Ferdinand II granted them amnesty and they returned to the town.
The church was locked so we didn’t see inside, but I thought these carvings on the windows were interesting.
The Romanesque churches in the old city of Zamora and numerous and fascinating. But most of them have been considerably changed over the centuries. Apart from one or two I think it was the two churches outside the walls which most retained their original form.