The more you learn about Salamanca and the surrounding region of Castilla y Leon, the more you realize how important history is to their day-to-day lives. It isn’t just important to the region though—Castilla y Leon has a very important place in Spanish history and the formation of modern Spain. Ripples of its history can be felt throughout the country even today.
Castilla y Leon make up Old Castile, the largest autonomous region in Spain. The population of each of its nine regions varies greatly, but the total population for the region is 2.5 million people. The nine provinces are Avila, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid and Zamora. A majority of the inhabitants live in the major cities like Valladolid, Burgos, Leon and Salamanca. Outside the main cities, the sporadic and sparsely-populated villages tend to be overlooked, like the province of Soria which has the lowest population in the entire country.
The region is situated on the northern part of a massive plateau in the middle of Spain called the Meseta Central and the expansive countryside consists of miles of flat arable land. Combine this with its location by the River Duero, and the countryside of Castilla y Leon provides perfect conditions for vineyards.
During the Reconquista, the kingdom of Castile became the most powerful force and extended its domination through military gains and advantageous marriages between families. By the 11th century, Castile had joined forces with Leon with at times one ruler for both regions. The monarchs of this age were enthusiastic about the arts and did everything in their power to litter the cities with superlative monuments, in this case, spectacular Gothic cathedrals that literally tower over Salamanca, Leon and Burgos.
In addition to the military force of Castilla y Leon, this region is also responsible for creating and cultivating the language we now call Spanish. It is also from here that the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, sought to unify Spain when they launched the re-conquest of the country from the rule of the Moors.
As mentioned before, Castilla y Leon’s history is incredibly rich and a strong indication of this is the sheer number of UNESCO World Heritage sites that can be found in the region. The cathedrals mentioned above are more than a piece of history, they are incredible works of art that have stood the test of time and remain relevant today. In addition to the cathedrals, there are monasteries and hermitages and Romanesque churches and universities and castles all throughout Castilla y Leon. Here are a few of the highlights to hit.
The massive Gothic Cathedral in Burgos, known as Our Lady of Burgos was started in the 13th century at the same time as the great cathedrals in France were, and was completed in the 15th and 16th centuries. The superb architecture includes the church, cloister and annexes and has exerted a significant amount of influence over the evolution of architecture in Spain. Beyond the architectural draws, Our Lady of Burgos is also home to a unique and widespread collection of works of art including paintings, choir stalls, reredos, tombs and stained-glass windows.
The caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca contain a rich fossil record of some of the earliest human beings in all of Europe—dating back nearly a million years ago and continuing up to the Common Era. The caves are an exceptional supply of information and data to the scientific community and it provides priceless insights into the appearance and way these remote human ancestors lived.
When you enter Las Medulas in Leon, you’ll be struck by the unusual landscape before you. Beyond the towering hills and lush forests surrounding it, below the surface lies one of the oldest gold mines in history. Back in the 1st century AD, the Roman Imperial authorities started to exploit the gold deposits that are found in this region of Spain using a technique based on hydraulic power. After two centuries of working the mines, the Romans withdrew and left a devastated landscape in its wake. The sheer faces of the mountainsides are a reminder to this day of the impressive ancient technology that was used to mine gold from Leon.
Get swept up in the history and stories of Castilla y Leon and create memories you’ll never forget. As you book your holiday to Spain, consider how important travel insurance is for your holiday. With an international travel insurance plan from Cover-More Australia, you won’t have to worry about anything and you can rest easy, knowing Cover-More’s team of experts is ready and waiting in the off-chance something unexpected happens and you need help.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Bren Buenaluz