Salamanca University was founded in 1218 by Alfonso IX and soon became Spain’s most important university. Internationally its reputation grew rapidly such that within 30 years Pope Alexander IV proclaimed it equal to Oxford, Paris and Bologna, the greatest universities of the day and theories formulated here were later accepted as fact throughout Europe.
Its most important contributions were to the development of international law and the astronomy faculty provided guidance to Columbus in anticipation of his forthcoming voyages of discovery.
Under the Catholic Monarchs the University continued to flourish and it was a woman professor, Beatriz de Galindo, who tutored Queen Isabel in Latin.
In the sixteenth century it was powerful enough to resist the orthodoxy of Felipe II’s Inquisition but freedom of thought was finally stifled by the extreme clericalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During these dark times books were banned for being a threat to the Catholic faith, and mathematics and medicine disappeared from the curriculum. Under the Peninsular War the decline seemed complete when the French demolished 20 of the 25 colleges and by the end of the nineteenth century there were no more than 300 students at Salamanca University.
Nowadays the University is not prestigious as an academic institution ranking well behind those in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville but it is very important as a Spanish language centre and some 30,000 students per year learn Spanish in Salamanca, many of them from the USA.
Spot the Frog
As you enter the entrance to Salamanca University (Universidad Civil) you’ll see the enormous facade dominated by the Catholic Monarchs in the centre and all kinds of floral designs and heraldry around them.
But can you spot the frog?
It is said that if you can spot the frog without any help you’ll enjoy good luck and will marry within a year (many visitors look well away when they hear this final detail!).
I doubt if it applies to frog spotting here on your PC screen. But who knows? Let us know!
There he is sitting on top of a scull in this close up.
If you’re looking for more nonsense in Salamanca go to the New Cathedral and find Puerta de Ramos (the Frog Gate). Recent work by stonemasons include an ice cream cone and an astronaut which we assume weren’t there when the “New” Cathedral was built in the 16th Century!