St. Stephens is a Dominican monastery, they arrived around 1255, located in the university city of Salamanca. It is believed that Columbus stayed in the original monastery when he came to Salamanca to defend his idea of reaching the Indies by going west, a direct conflict with the geographers of the university at the time. The original buildings were destroyed in 1524 to make way for a new parish church which began construction in the same year lasting up until 1610. The building is quite unique due to the several different styles which are evident in the building, ranging from Gothic to Baroque which is very evident in the reredos.
Today the building houses the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Stephen, an institution that although only founded in 1947 is the successor to the General Study of Theology which was founded in 1222.
The façade comprise of the church as well as the adjacent monastery portico. It is a great example of the Plateresque architectural style which was common in Spain from the early 14th to the early 16th centuries. Roughly translated to mean the “style of the silversmith”, it is a 200 year fusion of Flamboyant Gothic, Arabic, Lombard and early Renaissance from Tuscany. It is a style which is almost exclusively only found in Spain and its territories. It was conceived as a giant retable(reredos), which is altarpiece, screen or decoration behind the altar, featurimg a relief created in 17th century by Juan Antonio Ceroni and dedicated to the Martyrdom of St. Stephen.
The loggia of the Monastery was built between 1590-1592 by Juan Ribero Rada and is a classic Renaissance style, quite a contrast to the flamboyant church.
The interior containds a series of wonderful cloisters by which the highlight would be the “Cloister of the Kings” which gives acces to several Chapter houses including the “Ancient Chapter” which includes a chpel where many of the most prominent member of the order are buried. These include Francisco de Vitoria, 15th century Spanish Theologian, and Domingo de Soto, who followed in de Vitoria’s footsteps.
Of special note is the Soto Staircase, built between 1553 and 1556, gives access from the sacristy from the Ancient Chapter. A remarkable piece of designing by the architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón who cantilevered the stair out of the walls which creates incredible space and lightness to the design.
An architectural highlight.