There are a few houses to visit in Salamanca: The House of Deaths, María la Brava House, the Anaya Palace or the House-Convent of Santa Teresa de Jesús. Although the most famous one is none of them but a magnificent mansion which everyone knows as Casa de las Conchas (The House of Shells).
It was built in a time of changes and breakthroughs when the medieval world was dying and opened another vision of things and of the world. It was 1493, America had been newly discovered, and the Catholic Monarchs were fulfilling their dreams of unification. You can notice in the construction that it was built between two eras because its style is halfway between the old Gothic and the new Plateresque.
But what is clear is that the most characteristic feature of this house is the shells that cover its façade and give the Argentinian tourists plenty of reasons to make lots of jokes and puns. Although the noble who commissioned the building, more than five centuries ago, wasn’t probably a man of many laughs: Don Rodrigo Maldonado de Talavera was a professor, rector of the University of Salamanca, member of the Royal Council of Castille and knight of the Order of Santiago. The most important thing was the latter because to enter the order you had to prove that your family was noble since the time of the Cid, that no one of your blood had ever worked with their hands and a thousand of other similar things.
It is not strange, then, that Maldonado wanted to make it clear who he was and that is why he placed all the pilgrim’s shells on all sides of the house, one of the symbols of Santiago. But you should know that this is just one of the theories that try to explain the presence of so many shells. Another theory argues that the famous elements were added later when the son and heir of Rodrigo married Juana de Pimental whose family also had as symbol a shell.
The descendants of that marriage were against Carlos V in the Revolt of the Comuneros, and the emperor would take fulfilled revenge by forcing to cut the tower of the house which had been raised as a symbol of power and like that reducing it by two-thirds.
And we do not want to finish this audio-guide without telling you about the most important thing: The treasure! Everyone knows that under one of the shells there is a fabulous treasure hiding. You just have to find out which shell it is and then ask for permission to hammer the façade…