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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Frog of Salamanca

When walking through Salamanca, one of the things I noticed was the abundance of frog paraphernalia, key rings, t-shirts, mugs, pretty much every tourist thing you could think of! The frog is the symbol of Salamanca and is said to be good luck. I thought I'd give you a brief overview of the story behind the frog and why it's supposed to bring you luck.

The famous frog of Salamanca can be found on the main university building's most famous architectural piece 'La Puerta de Salamanca'. The University's facade is a plateresque design (a type of intricate stonework seen on many of the famous buildings of Salamanca) containing many highly decorative stone carvings. The facade was an addition to the university in 1592 by the Catholic Kings, though the building itself was built in 1134, making it one of the oldest universities in the world.

You can find the frog sat atop a scull carved into the facade, and there are a few different theories as to why it's there. One such theory is directly linked to the university. This story says that the students studying at university had to try and find the tiny frog amongst the carvings on the facade, and if they managed this without help they would pass their exams and have good luck.

An alternative story gives a slightly darker meaning, saying that the frog is a symbol of sexual temptation and the skull a symbol of failure or death. A toad was often used in Spanish history as a symbol for prostitutes and sexual temptation, and some argue that the frog is actually meant to be a toad. According to the legend the frog on the skull was there to warn the students to be aware of women, as they may distract them, thus not focusing on their studies. There used to be a high volume of prostitutes in Salamanca due to the large university filled with young men, some of whom carried diseases that could be fatal, thus the image of the scull a as a reminder of death.

Though this has been the legend for many years, recent studies have offered a different story behind the famous frog. Historian Benjamin Garcí-Hernández argues that the scull represents Prince Juan, a son of the Catholic Kings, who died in 1497 before reaching 20. The frog is said to represent his physician Doctor Parra, who tried as hard as possible to save the prince but without success. This is why the frog has been given the nickname 'Parrita' (Little Parra) as a symbol for the doctor.

Regardless of the story the facade is a very impressive piece of art, maybe you can come and search out the frog for yourself in Salamanca, and hopefully it will bring you good luck in your studies!

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