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Alcalá de Henares (Spain)


The name Alcalá de Henares comes from the Arabic word Al´kala, which in the Middle Ages it was just a castle or fortress over the river basin Henares won by don Bernardo for the Crown of Castilla. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Alcalá developed its urban complex, a historic moment of tolerant coexistence among Jews, Muslims and Christians. Besides, it was the foundation of the University that drove the city to the artistic and cultural expansion during the Renaissance and the Golden Age. The Cardinal Cisneros –archbishop of Toledo, and also Governor – started a great humanistic-theological programme linked to the University and was the promoter of the edition of religious and profane books of great significance as well as the famous multilingual Bible, for which a lot of resources were used to borrow manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin.

In the 60s and 70s, the proximity of Alcalá to Madrid (some 30 kilometres from the capital of Spain), was the determining factor of a new type of city development, such as setting up chemical, pharmaceutical and iron and steel industries, which led to an important demographic growth. Today’s Alcalá de Henares has an official population number of 170,000 inhabitants, even though Alcalá has a floating population of 38,000 foreigners who are working or studying. Most of them come from Poland, Rumania, Morocco and Colombia.

In the University of Alcalá, there were such important figures as Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Antonio de Nebrija, San Juan de la Cruz, Santo Tomás de Villanueva or San Ignacio de Loyola, but after a period of great brilliance, Alcalá started a period of crisis and in the XIX century its renown University was moved to Madrid. Although it is again a University City, Madrid is still the headquarters of the Complutense University. The development of the University has allowed recovering most of the buildings for cultural-university usages as well as planning the revitalization of the urban and historic-artistic heritage of the city.

The quality of the Golden Age buildings, its quality as a University City as being the home city of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous and renowned writer of El Quijote, all of which enabled the UNESCO to declare Alcalá de Henares "Heritage of Mankind" on Dec 2, 1998.