The Cave of Salamanca
Cueva de Salamanca, or the cave of Salamanca is open everyday with free entrance. When you arrive to the gate to see the cave, you’ll notice right away that it doesn’t really look much like a cave. It seems to be more of a ruin that has cavernous parts… If you consider walking through knocked out walls as ‘cavernous.’
In reality this cave has a dark history that at one point made Salamanca more famous for satanism, than it did for having the oldest university of Europe. They say that the Cave of Salamanca hosted the devil himself so that he could teach black magic to 7 students for 7 years.
From here the story varies. One story goes on to say that at the end of the 7 years the students had a draw, and whichever student lost had to remain in this cave living his life out as Satan’s servant. Another legend says that one of the seven students were chosen at random to remain within the “forces of hell” eternally.
One of the students that lost the draw, rumored to be Marqués de Villena, tried to escape while serving his life sentence out as the apprentice. In order to do so, he used the black magic that he had learned to hide in a jar. When he finally was able to escape, he lost his shadow in the devil’s grasp.
The story carried on through sailors and created a colloquial phrase of, ‘In the Salamancas,’ which meant in the dark, or in the shadows. But at some point, the legend was no longer told – partially due to Queen Isabella’s orders to have the cave be reconstructed into a church. In 1580 the church was taken down. In one blog (regarding the history of the Salamanca Cave) the author writes,
They say that much of the history of this cave was kept so secretive by the 7 students and those involved, that very little history is actually known about the cave as a result. This likely spurred the existence of this legend. Though most stories agree that black magic was taught here. The inscription outside of the cave says that some believe that the cave contains tunnels that can lead directly to the underworld.
To further validate the darkness of the site, the Salamanca Cave is mentioned in the Spanish Book of Demonology written in 1610.
To Tia Tula‘s point, the cave does have a feel of more of a ‘ruin’ than it does a cave with such dark history behind it. You can listen to the english audio guide about the cave provided by the Salamanca tourism office.
If you go to the cave now you’ll see that most of the cave is knocked down. But they’ve tried to preserve what they could. As you climb the top of each of the stairs you get some great views of the city and can even overlook part of the remains to what I believe used to be the rest of the church.