Immersed in a mountainous landscape, where meadows alternate with forests of walnuts, chestnuts and oaks, La Alberca is located in the south of the province of Salamanca, on the northern slopes of the Sierra de Francia. With a name of Arab origin, its first traces are lost in prehistoric times, as witnessed by the cave paintings that can be seen in the fields and cliffs of its surroundings. The 12th and 13th centuries brought repopulation to the town by decision of King Alfonso IX of León, on whose crown the town depended. With Juan II, in century XV, La Alberca happened to depend on the House of Alba, and was under the jurisdiction of the cacereña town of Granadilla, although maintaining a great autonomy; in year 1515 it had its own rules and ordinances. After several centuries of dependence on Extremadura, in the nineteenth century, with the creation of the current provinces in 1833, La Alberca was finally integrated into the province of Salamanca. In the year 1940 the locality obtained the title of Historical-Artistic Monument, curiously it was the first Spanish municipality with such distinction.
To enter La Alberca and walk through its streets is to move to an authentic medieval town that has survived over time maintaining its rites and customs. Religiosity, myths and legends and why not, secrets that are tangible in the architecture of its houses and the network of its streets and alleys. Great writers such as Cervantes, who cited the Peña de Francia and its Black Virgin in his novel Don Quijote, or Lope de Vega who turned the place into the refuge where two lovers try to live out their love, forbidden by the court, have helped imprint this legendary character on La Alberca, and thus on the Sierra de Francia and Las Batuecas. Almost all of the buildings in the village date from the 18th century and their lintels, which show the dates of the foundation of the houses, as well as containing religious inscriptions, signs and anagrams, are striking. Streets with their own entity such as the Rincon del Campito, the square of Barrio Nuevo or the street of El Chorrito, the street of El Tablao and in the centre of the town the Main Square with the fountain and transept from the 18th century, and in front of these the old Pilgrims' Hospital, completing the surroundings of the Ducal House, the Town Hall and the old schools.
The religious character of its people is reflected not only in the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, dating from the 18th century, but also in its hermitages such as the Cristo del Humilladero, one of the oldest; San Antonio, dated 1.670 on the lintel; the hermitage of San Blas, without worship at present but with special importance because of the pilgrimage of "El Día del Pendón" that is celebrated there; that of Nuestra Señora de Majadas Viejas with a Romanesque portico and a curious exterior granite pulpit, without forgetting the hermitage of San Marcos whose ruins occupy a beautiful place from where you can enjoy the view of the Peña de Francia, the Peña del Huevo, the Alberca, the Francia river... La Alberca is a good starting point to travel through the Natural Park of Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia along beautiful hiking routes and to enjoy its forests, to get close to the emblematic and pilgrimage site, Peña de Francia and its sanctuary, or to visit the prehistoric caves along the valley.
La Alberca celebrates its patron saint festivities in honour of the Virgen de la Asunción on August 15th. On September 8 the pilgrimage to the Peña de Francia is celebrated and the pilgrimage to Majadas Viejas is on the Saturday before Pentecost.
On Easter Monday, a traditional celebration is held at the Alberca that recalls the triumph and courage of the Albercan women over the Portuguese troops who supported Juana la Beltraneja by opposing Isabel the Católica during the Castilian war. The Portuguese were, according to tradition, camped near La Alberca, looting and destroying everything in their path, when the women of La Alberca, with great secrecy, attacked them by surprise and, defeating them, they made theirs the Banner of the Prior of Ocrato. The place of such courageous confrontation was called Las Matancias. The House of Alba to celebrate invited the neighbors to wine and since then and as the custom is celebrated in the threshing floors on the day of the Banner and the City Council invites the people and all visitors to wafers and wine, served this by the escancianos, which are the newly married.
In La Alberca it is normal and everyday to see a pig walking through the streets. It is the popular pig of San Antón. In early summer the piglet is released and fed and cared for by all the villagers with great care and affection, since the animal in question is destined to be drawn in the raffle that, as tradition dictates, is held in La Alberca on the day of San Antón, 17 January.
The Christ that houses the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción keeps a beautiful legend that has passed from one to another with great veneration. It is said that a group of pilgrims met, on their way to the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia, with a cart that seemed abandoned and that hid something under a canvas. They waited to see if the owner would show up, but as time passed and no one claimed it, they decided to see what their much guarded load was, and when they lifted the canopy, they contemplated with astonishment that what they were carrying was nothing more than a precious carving of a Christ. In view of such a finding, they decided to take it to the nearby village of La Alberca, where it was exposed on an altar in the church. And they continued their pilgrimage. Some time later they returned to La Alberca with the purpose of giving thanks to that Christ who seemed to have taken care of them on their way and they bowed down at his feet and venerated him. One of the pilgrims raised her eyes to the Crucified in her prayers and what was not her astonishment when she saw that the Christ was pearly with drops of crimson sweat, the Christ sweated blood. Since then he is known as the Christ of Sweat.
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Different roads connect La Alberca with the surrounding towns such as Mogarraz, El Maillo, Miranda del Castañar or Sotoserrano, among others. We can also access from Ciudad Rodrigo or from Béjar.
La Alberca has a daily bus service covering the route La Alberca-Salamanca, as well as being connected by bus on Mondays and Fridays with Béjar and on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Ciudad Rodrigo. The telephone numbers for further information are, Bus Station, Salamanca, 923 220 1 87 and 923 120 800 or 923 485 508 those of the services to Béjar and Ciudad Rodrigo.
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