Since the 15th Century, the Escuelas Mayores building has been a notable architectural feature of the University of Salamanca, Spain. A masterpiece of the Spanish Renaissance style, it has attracted vast crowds for decades, who marvel at its position as a seat of learning and as a work of art in itself. Yet nestled among its ornate façade is a secret, known only to a few, and only if one knows exactly where to look.

The façade is divided into three levels, with the two lower levels split into five sections and the upper one into three, bearing heraldic designs dating from the era of the Catholic Kings. Animal symbols reflecting Spain’s royal families, such as the double-headed eagle of the Spanish Empire, can be found amongst the crests. While the eagle may be a universal symbol of power, there is another animal tucked away in a corner of the structure, one which seems out of place among such finery, yet is believed to bring luck to eagle-eyed observers.

Perched atop a skull in one of the carved sections, peering down at passers-by, sits a tiny frog. Its sculptor is unknown, as is the reason why the amphibian appears on the university’s doorway, although it is believed to be either an ancient Egyptian image of death or a representation of the deadly sin of Lust, but it has become something of a local icon. According to legend, whoever is the first in a group to find the frog (no easy task, as it is smaller than a hand span, and there are three skulls adorning the façade) will be lucky, which often leads to competition within groups. So remember: when next in Salamanca, may fortune smile on you, and seek the elusive froggy.


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