Salamanca is a beautiful ancient university city located in about 213km towards northwest from Madrid, Spain.
The Old City of Salamanca is covered with numerous Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance or Baroque monuments such as the 12th century Romanesque Old Cathedral, the New Cathedral of Gothic and Baroque style, the Plaza Mayor of 18th century Baroque style to name a few. Together with the University of Salamanca, The Old City of Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
University of Salamanca and Alfonso X the Wise
The University of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest university in continuous operation in Europe, following the University of Bologna in Italy and the University of Oxford in United Kingdom.
The origin of the University of Salamanca can be traced back, at least, to 1130 when it is believed to have been founded and started operating as an educational institution. In 1218, it was recognised as Studium Generale by the King Alfonso IX of Leon. In 1252, it was given the title of “University” by the King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon.
Alfonso X is often called the King Alfonso X the Wise. He highlighted the importance of the knowledge and culture for his successful reign and the civilisation. He collected wide range of knowledge from literature, science, history, law, astronomy to music and plastic arts. Alfonso X had interests not only in occidental culture but also in oriental one. He set up Toledo School of Translators where many Latin, Arabic and Hebrew scholars were hired. Many classic works were translated here into Latin and introduced to Europe.
Alfonso X put all the collected knowledge together and wrote up in a common language of the time “Castilian (today's Spanish language)” instead of Latin (the language of prestige) giving the common people access to the knowledge. The output is known as Literature of Alfonso X, a huge amount of literature works.
From Literature of Alfonso X, as a lyrical work, we can find the Cantigas de Santa María (Canticles of Holy Mary), a collection of more than 420 poems with monophonic music notation (classical guitar version sample). This is the only work that was not written in Castilian language but in Galician-Portuguese (considered fashionable and lyrical at the time).
By the way, the Moon's crater ‘Alphonsus’ is derived from Afonso X. This name was given by an Italian astronomer of the 17th century.
A notable Spanish scholar and Basque writer Miguel de Unamuno, was the Rector of the University of Salamanca from 1901 until 1936.