Our October kosher river cruise took us from the scenic beauty of Porto to the grandeur of the ancient city of Salamanca. With the Douro River crossing the Portugal-Spain border, we easily visited the university city after taking a short bus ride. There is much history to be explored in Salamanca, from its scholarly roots to its rich Jewish heritage.
The Golden City
Salamanca is an old place, and its premiere university was founded around the 13th century. Because of its unique sandstone composition, it is also known as the Golden City, where the buildings have a unique reddish gold hue that evokes a sense of antiquity and ancient magnificence. The University itself is one of the oldest active institutes of learning in the world, where students from all over the world come to broaden their minds. It’s amazing to imagine the number of students from across the centuries who learned here. Jewish trips through such locales are always so memorable.
Jewish Memories in Salamanca
There were a number of influential scholars who studied and taught at the University of Salamanca. One of them was the illustrious Abraham Zacuto, who served as the Royal Astronomer of Portugal. His contributions to the field of astronomy allowed for the innovation of navigating practices, which made global exploration easier and more widespread. Salamanca was spared of the brunt of the old pogroms in Spain, although its Jewish beis medrash, or “House of Learning”, was eventually handed over to the university. Interestingly enough, as described by Dr. Henry Abramson, there is a statue in front of this building depicting Luis de Leon, a friar of Jewish ancestry who got into trouble with the authorities, due to his disagreement with the word choice of the Vulgate Bible, citing the more accurate words of the original Hebrew text.