La Alberca: A portal to the past

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The main square of La Alberca

La Alberca in the region of Salamanca is a place full of history. In its dark narrow streets sit sloping timber buildings dating from the 14th century onwards. This picture postcard village in Spain was the first to be given the status of a National Historical Monument by the government in 1940.

It’s a place of symbols, which hint at the local industries including honey and textiles; their coat of arms is decorated with a beehive and a spinning wheel. In a village with a rich Muslim and Jewish heritage, enduring Christian emblems are carved into the granite door lintels of the houses.

The crossed keys and papal tiara of the Vatican are joined by mottos including ‘Hail Mary, conceived without sin’. 

One of these symbols hides a darker past. Off the main square and opposite the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, sits an unassuming wooden door. Above this door is carved a hand holding an olive branch, a cross and a sword. This is one of the symbols of the feared Spanish Inquisition, whose goal was to convert all Spain to the Catholic faith. This message would have been clear to the townsfolk of La Alberca: take up the cross and convert and we will offer you the olive branch of peace. If not, you will die by the sword.

This building was possibly the headquarters of the local Inquisition many centuries ago, however their story is seemingly not over yet. Around 10 years ago during the remodelling of this house, two bodies were found, reportedly in chains and sealed into the wall. I haven’t found any more information about this so far, so La Alberca still has many secrets to uncover behind its closed doors.

The symbol appears in other locations around the town

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