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Friday, May 25, 2012

The legend of the Cave of Salamanca

One of the most mythical corners of Salamanca is the ´Cueva de Salamanca´. According to tradition, the devil himself used to give back magic classes back in the middle Age, in the cave and from there the fame and legend of the cave begun.

Where is the Cave of Salamanca? Well actually is very close to our school, Tía Tula, like so many monumental sights of the city ... (Here you can refer to our previous entry: how to always find Tía Tula on a tourist map of Salamanca). More specifically, the Cave of Salamanca is on the ´Cuesta de Carvajal´. Here we´ll show you how you get from Tía Tula (A) to the Cuesta de Carvajal (B), using Google Maps, with a view of the ´Cuesta de Carvajal´, which is also taken from Google Maps:

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Originally, the Cave of Salamanca was only the crypt or vestry of the Church of San Cebrian (St. Cyprian), a church that would later be destroyed in the late sixteenth century. In this vestry, Clement Potosi, the sacristan devoted himself for years as it seems, to teaching art classes that were considered obscure, such as astrology and palmistry. The purpose was to transmit divinatory techniques. It is likely that students in his classes had to commit to not disclosing the contents of his classes, which is why the legend began to form and grow. It also became twisted as the sacristan was replaced by the devil himself (maybe through Clement Potosi?) It is said that for at night for seven years in the crypt, Satan taught black magic to seven students, most of them college students (of Salamanca which was then one of the university campuses of reference in Spain - A Spain very much dominated by the power of the Church - and received students from all parts of the country, and beyond). At the end of the seven years the students had a draw to see who would pay for the classes, if the unfortunate person had no money to pay for them, they had to stay for life in the cave serving the devil as his assistant in the classroom. From here comes one of the most fascinating chapters in this fascinating legend: Marqués de Villena (the legendary character inspired by Enrique de Villena and Enrique of Aragon), was one of the college students who participated in these classes. He was the person who lost the draw and had to pay for the classes but he had no money and so had to stay in the sacristy. One day however he decided to try to escape: he hid in a large pot and when the devil came into the sacristy, on not seeing him, went out leaving the door open.  Villena took the opportunity to escape the church and ran into the street. The devil tried to catch him but was unsuccessful, he could only catch his shadow ... Since then the Marquis of Villena was marked for life by this curse of having lost his shadow and this marked him as debtor of Satan, which in turn meant he had to stay in the shadows so people couldn’t see that he was shadowless.
As always, there are many versions of this legend, but most of them agree on the main points. This story was well known in Spain during the 14th and the 16th centuries and it was so famous that it went with the first Spanish sailors who interfered in the colonization of Central and South America. This is the reason why it’s usual today that people still refer to lands, caves and dark places as “Salamancas”. In reality, before that, the story about the Cave was no longer told because ´Isabel la catolica´ had ordered to wall up the sacristy with mortar and stone a few years beforehand. This proves that this legend had already arrived at this time. The church was taken down afterwards, in 1580. From this moment on, half of the cave was lost and the other half became firstly, a storeroom of the palace of Mayorazgo de Albandea, then a bakery storeroom and finally a coal yard. Finally, in the 20th century, at the beginning of the 90s, the area was conscientiously dug and rehabilitated. The discoveries were exposed to the public in 1993, thus making it an archaeological area which is composed of three parts: La Torre de Villena (in allusion to the marques), the main floor of the Church San Cebrián and the Cave of Salamanca. This exciting visit is one which our pupils make from time to time, as part of an extra-curricular activity and is one that they made yesterday.
The truth is that when you go into the cave the feeling is that it´s a ruin, not a site of interest but it is difficult not to start thinking of the legend that´s wrapped up in this place and what happened, the legend which travelled throughout the whole world for many years.

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