Alcalá de Henares University

Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in the early 16th century, Alcalá de Henares was the world's first planned university city. It was the original model for the Civitas Dei (City of God), the ideal urban community which Spanish missionaries brought to the Americas. It also served as a model for universities in Europe and elsewhere.

The property includes a magnificent complex of historic buildings, such as the exceptional Colegio Mayor de San Idelfonso or the Monastery of St Bernard. The University Precinct begins at the Plaza Cervantes and extends to the east of the medieval city. It was enclosed by demolishing part of the earlier medieval walls and prolonging them around the new urban development. The layout is based on humanist planning principles, with two main axes and a central place (nowadays Plaza de San Diego) where the main University buildings are located. The walled medieval precinct has the Iglesia Magistral (Cathedral) at its core, from which the street network radiates, merging into the former Jewish and Arab quarters. To the north-west is the ecclesiastical precinct, surrounded by its own walls; at its heart is the Archbishop’s Palace. Within the historic centre there are several protected buildings under the Spanish legislation.

The city has its origins in the Roman town of Complutum. It expanded during the Middle Ages and flourished in the 16th century thanks to the foundation of the University. The concept of this city, its planning and provisions, belong to the project designed by the University’s founder, Cardinal Cisneros. He had bought land in the east of the medieval city with the aim of providing the necessary infrastructures to carry out his university project, a project that included colleges, halls of residence, hospitals and printers, all of which contributed to the University of Alcalá’s outstanding intellectual achievement for hundreds of years. Juxtaposed with the medieval town, this new city was converted into an exceptional model that embodied the Augustinian model of the City of God, as well as to the way it was planned and the buildings it was endowed with. The dream of the Civitas Dei became a reality, reaching the highest levels of intellectual achievement of the era in the sciences, language and literature, personified by its most illustrious son, Miguel de Cervantes through his universal work ‘Don Quixote’.

Alcalá de Henares was designed with the strict purpose of being the seat of a university. It was the first city of this kind in history and it became a University City model for the Americas and Europe. Alcalá exported its prestige and its form of organization: a microcosm where religious orders, the town citizens, the academic world, education and knowledge all lived together. It is also a unique example of the architecture pertaining to the House of Austria, characteristic in the centre of Spain during the Baroque period.

The historical centre of Alcalá de Henares is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

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User Reviews

Zmicier Vaskovich (5 months ago)
The university offers guided tours mostly in Spanish, but there is one tour in English at 14.00. It is worth checking in advance if the times change. There is an office just at the main entrance.
Ellie (6 months ago)
The University of Alcalá is a prestigious institution located in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. It has a rich history dating back to 1293 and is known for its contributions to literature, science, and culture. The university's campus is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
david howells (15 months ago)
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site university town. Not the grandest of world heritage sites but very historic. It was founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in the early 16th century. Alcalá de Henares was the world's first planned university city. Not to be confused with being the oldest as this goes to Bologna in Italy. It has some pleasant historic buildings, a neat plaza and is well worth a visit as it’s a nice town. Just don’t expect an Oxford or Sorbonne.
andi Rui (2 years ago)
Do not come to this school if you are a foreign student and need some documents from the university to apply for legal stay at the immigration office. Even if the foreign student's tuition fee is much higher, the school will not provide the required documents in time. The school does not care if the student's stay is legal in Spain or not, as long as the student pays the tuition, no one cares about the student's need. Foreign students are even being told to go back to their own country and take online courses. The one-year master's program is very poorly set up and the schedule is chaotic, with always impromptu situations: classes are changed at different times or classrooms are changed. The administration office is a disaster, they can´t even get your names right in multiple emails while your email address is literally your full name——they don’t even bother to look at it!
david collomb (2 years ago)
Not a student, however wonderful exterior architecture. Worth a half day trip over here.
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