About Casa de las Conchas
The Casa de las Conchas, ‘The House of Shells’, is a 15th century building in Salamanca, central Spain, which currently houses a public library.
Casa de las Conchas history
Built between 1493-1517 by Chancellor Talavera Maldonado and his son Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, knight of the 15th century Order of Santiago Compostela and a professor at the University of Salamanca, the house was designed in both late Gothic and Plateresque styles.
The house was decorated with over three-hundred scallop shells, symbol of the pilgrim’s journey along the Camino de Santiago Compostela, the Way of St. James. The journey was originally a route from the Pyrenees to defend Christendom against the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula.
The facade built above the entrance to Casa de las Conchas is the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, whose marriage unified Spain as a dynastic union in 1469.
The building, originally with two towers as a symbol of nobleman power, was partially demolished under Carlos I as punishment for Pedro Maldonado Pimentel’s role in the Battle of Villalar in 1521, a revolt against the King. One tower was completely demolished, while the other was reduced to one-third of its original height in the 18th century.
Throughout its existence, Casa de las Conchas had uses beyond that of a grand family home, including as the headquarters of Menendez Pelayo College until the 1960s. The final family to inhabit the Casa de las Conchas was the administrative seat of the Count of Santa Coloma, who gave it to the city council for a lease of one gold peseta for ninety-nine years in 1967.
Casa de las Conchas today
Today the Casa de las Conchas is Salamanca’s public library and information office, but you can still visit to appreciate the Gothic architecture. You can view the courtyard in the centre of the house, noting the fleurs-de-lis and gargoyles on the roof crest: the former a symbol of Catholic saints, the second a feature of Gothic architecture.
If you do not have time to go inside, simply sit on the steps of nearby La Clerica for a moment and admire the facade.
Getting to Casa de las Conchas
Generally, you can walk around Salamanca with ease. However, if using public transport, the nearest bus stop is Pza. Poeta Iglesias 17. It is a 2km walk from Salamanca train station.