University of Salamanca - History and Facts | History Hit

University of Salamanca

Salamanca, Castile and Leon, Spain

Salamanca University is the oldest university in Spain.

Antara Bate

04 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About University of Salamanca

Salamanca University (Universidad de Salamanca) is the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. Dating back to 1218, it was founded under the orders of King León Alfonso IX. Today, highlights of a visit to the University of Salamanca include its Fray Luis de León lecture hall and its Plateresque façade as well as a ceiling painted by Fernando Gállego.

University of Salamanca history

The University of Salamanca was founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX and was Spain’s first institution of higher education. In 1254 three chairs in canon law and one each in grammar, arts, and physics were established. From that time until the end of the 16th century, Salamanca was one of the leading centres of learning in Europe, ranking with Paris, Bologna, and Oxford.

The university was at its peak in 1584, with nearly 7,000 students. A decline began at the end of the 16th century, and by 1875 enrolment was down to 391. In the early 19th century, a quarter of Salamanca containing many university buildings was destroyed by the French when the defeat of Napoleon ended their occupation of Spain.

The city of Salamanca owes its most essential features to the University. The remarkable group of buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles collectively make up the university complex and make Salamanca an exceptional example of an old university town in the Christian world, such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The University of Salamanca’s Escuelas Mayores building’s facade is possibly the best example there is of Plateresque architecture specific to Spain and its territories during the early Renaissance period.

University of Salamanca today

Today, Salamanca University consists of the colleges of Law, Liberal Arts, and Science and Medicine, as well as a number of other highly regarded academic units such as its Spanish language institute. The university has an annual population of 30,000 students participating in upwards of 250 academic programs.

To see the inner parts of the university, visitors may need to buy tickets and be aware of opening times.

The famous facade of the University of Salamanca’s Escuelas Mayores building is a rich tapestry of carvings. A popular tradition involves identifying the frog within the carvings of the facade, succeeding in this is supposed to bring good luck.

Getting to the University of Salamanca

The university is located centrally, close to Plaza Mayor, Casa de las Conchas and other monuments.