Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A King, a Cardinal, and a College

Sancho in a contemporary manuscript
King Sancho IV of Castile (1258 - 1295), also known as Sancho the Brave, ruled the combined Iberian kingdoms of Castile, León, and Galicia for a little over ten years. Although his father wished Sancho's older brother, Alfonso, to take the throne, Sancho managed to gain support of the nobles. There was opposition to Sancho, but he offered a change from the elitist policies of his father, which helped maintain his support. Still, he could be harsh to opposition, such as when he executed 4000 followers of an opposition party.

Unfortunately, he could even be harsh to his own supporters. One of his most loyal supporters was Lope Díaz III de Haro—who was, among other things, Sancho's brother-in-law—but Sancho killed him in 1288 during an argument in which Lope threatened Sancho.

On 20 May 1293, King Sancho IV of Castile granted a royal charter to the Archbishop of Toledo to create a university in the city of Alcalá de Henares. It was called the Studium Generale ["School of General Studies"]. The archbishop, Gonzalo Garciá Gudiel, had been born in Toledo but studied at the University of Paris and become rector at the University of Padua. Wishing to create a university in the place of his birth, he convinced Sancho to give him some land and the charter. Sancho called him chanceller mayor en todos nuestros regnos ["great chancellor in all our realms"].

In 1499, an alumnus of the Complutense University (Complutum was the Latin name for Alcalá), Cardinal Cisneros, received a papal bull from Pope Alexander IV (seen here endorsing the Sorbonne) that allowed him to purchase more land for the expansion of the university. In the 16th and 17th centuries, students from all over Europe flocked to study there, in philosophy, canon law, medicine, philology, or theology. Famous alumni included Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

Complutense granted a doctorate to a female student in 1785, 135 years before Oxford even accepted female students! The university grew so large that, in the 20th century, it was moved to Madrid and given more buildings to accommodate its needs.

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