The University of Salamanca dates from 1218 and today the lucky students can work, live and ‘be’ all over this beautiful town.
A brief history
King Alfonso IX of Leon founded a University in Salamanca in 1218, the oldest university in Spain. There were three chairs in Canon law, and others in grammar, arts and physics. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was one of the leading unviersities in Europe, on a par with Paris, Bologna and Oxford.
Today Salamanca University spreads across nine campuses in Salamanca, Avila, Zamora and Bejar. Six of the campuses are in Salamanca and there are c.30,000 students at varying levels of study. The University has colleges in law, liberal arts, science and medicine as well as other centres such as the centre for the study of languages. Most of the students are registered in the social and legal sciences.
It was apparently the first university to accept female students, and alumni included well-known names such as Cervantes and Hernan Cortes.
University buildings in Salamanca
The Anaya Palace dates from 1762 and was designed and built by José Hermosilla and Juan de Sagarvinaga. The college was founded by Sir Diego de Anaya as the college of St Bartolome until the end of the 18th century. It is currently the Department of Philology at the University.1
Buildings ssociated with the University are dotted around Salamanca and you find them round most corners.
This part of the university dates from the 15th century and its purpose was to prepare students for the university major degrees, i.e. bachelor’s degrees were taught here. Today many of the rooms here are used for exhibitions.
Fernando Gallego created the painting of the signs of the zodiac in the sky in the 1480s in the Chapel of the University in the Escuelas Mayores building. It was related to the teaching of astrology and astronomy at the university.2 Only one third of the original ceiling and painting remains and incredibly it was hidden until the beginning of the 20th century. The painting was recovered and moved to its current location in 1952.
Escuelas Mayores Building
This is the main, original building of the university. The statue of Fray Luis de León3 (1527-91) stands in the plaza in front of the building. He entered the University when he was 14 and spent his entire life as an academic; he was also ordained as an Augustinian Friar. The Inquisition imprisoned him for four years; nevertheless in 1579 Fray Luis was elected to the University’s most prestigious chair, the professorship of Theology/ Holy Scripture.
It was a Saturday and there are weddings on Saturdays! This one was in the Chapel of the Escuela Mayores and as usual the ladies were lavishly dressed.
In the streets around the university
As always it is good to wander around and just feel the atmosphere…
I understand that one can get into some of the buildings of the University of Salamanca but we only saw them from the outside. Next time perhaps?
- Anaya Palace: https://www.gpsmycity.com/attractions/palacio-de-anaya-(anaya-palace)-61579.html ↩︎
- The sky of Salamanca: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2208.01722.pdf ↩︎
- Fray Luis de León: https://www.spainthenandnow.com/spanish-literature/fray-luis-de-leon-1527-91-life-and-work ↩︎