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Alcala De Henares History, Spain

Alcala de Henares is a university town not far from Madrid, and it is home to one of Spain’s best and oldest universities. It is also famous for being the birth-place of Miguel de Cervantes, the creator of Don Quixote. Alcala is a city that exemplifies perfectly the concept of cultural tourism. While it isn’t as popular with tourists as Pamplona or Valencia, the city has several charming cafes and restaurants, but quite few nightclubs or bars. Alcala is worth visiting for its cultural and historical heritage. The city stands since the times of Romans, and there are vestiges of every civilization that has passed through the region. This Alcala de Henares History Guide presents a few outlines of the city’s intriguing history.

Alcala de Henares History - Early History

Alcala’s history goes back thousands of years, to the Neolithic period, when the first settlers came to the region. The town rapidly became a centre for trade between the Iberian and the Celtic tribes that inhabited Western Europe around 3000 BC. When the Romans expanded their empire, the city was conquered and renamed Complutum, and became one of the most important cities of the Iberian Peninsula. Ruins from that period can still be found in Alcala, for example the remains of thermal baths, a nymphaeum, and several villas. Alcala remained a flourishing city under Roman rule for the next half a century, but when the Roman Empire started to become shaky, the city was ravaged by Visigoths. In the early 8th century, Alcala came under Moorish rule, which would change the city’s face forever. The Moors built the fortress of Al-Qual’at, known today under the name of Old Alcala.

Alcala de Henares History - Middle Ages

Alcala remained under Moorish control until the Reconquista, when the bishop of Toledo brought the city back in the hands of the Spanish. The city became more multicultural than ever: Alcala sported a Moorish quarter, a Christian one, and a Jewish district. The King of Castile, whose residence was in Madrid, often stayed in Alcala when travelled south. This Alcala de Henares History Guide recommends that you visit the Casa de la Entrevista, the house where Christopher Columbus met Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, before leaving to discover America. The following centuries are called the golden age of Alcala. The University opened its doors, several churches were built, and Alcala became known throughout Europe as one o the greatest centers for learning on the continent.

Alcala de Henares History - From the 19th Century Until Today

The University Complutense was moved to Madrid in the 19th century, and Alcala did not have a university anymore until 1977, when the University of Alcala opened. The two universities are unrelated; the new university merely occupies the buildings of the Complutense. Alcala was severely damaged during the Spanish Civil war, but nowadays the city reclaimed its former beauty, and the ravages of the war are nowhere to be seen. The Cervantes prizes for literature are presented by the King and Queen of Spain every year in Miguel de Cervantes’ birth-place.

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