Postcard from Salamanca, Spain: Stonemasons’ soaring work pays homage to patron saint

Saint Stephen earned the honor of serving as the patron saint of stonemasons the hard way. An early convert from Judaism to Christianity, Stephen traditionally is regarded as the first of the faithful to be martyred for his beliefs in the Holy Trinity. He was stoned to death for his alleged blasphemy, so he often is depicted bearing a trinity of stones.

But the stonemasons constructing the Dominican church and adjoining cloisters in Salamanca over a century or two beginning in the 1500s created a monumental tribute to their patron saint. His massive church stretches 275 feet in length and rises more than half that high at the transept. Primarily Gothic on the interior, the church’s façade reflects the Plateresque detailing in vogue at the time of its completion.

And, given that we are always on the lookout for our hometown saint…. Alas, an ancient statue of Saint Anthony has lost something major. While Baby Jesus rests safely in Saint Anthony’s hands on the façade of the church, inside he is missing. We don’t know how many hundreds of years ago the kidnapping occurred, but the shadow of the statue of the empty-handed patron saint of misplaced or stolen items seems attempting to follow the advice of the children’s chant imploring: “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, turn around. I’ve lost something that can’t be found….”

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