The University of Alcalá
The University of Alcalá is one of the oldest in Europe. Cardinal Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros, Archbishop of Toledo, founded it in 1499, and from that moment the city became a real "university town", filled with small residential colleges (more than 30 during the Golden Age), monasteries and churches.
Many Spanish intellectuals and writers were linked to the University of Alcalá: Elio Antonio de Nebrija (the author of the first Spanish Grammar), San Juan de la Cruz, Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón de la Barca, among others.
Alcalá and Cervantes
The birthplace of Cervantes: The author of El Quijote was born in Alcalá in 1547, and his birth-house, located in the old part of the town, can still be visited as a museum.
The annual awarding of the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish literary equivalent of the Nobel Prize, takes place in the Paraninfo of the University of Alcalá on the 23rd of April. On this occasion, the city becomes the capital of the Spanish language.
From 1991 the old Colegio del Rey (King's College, founded by Felipe II) has become the site of the Instituto Cervantes, the international organisation which is responsible for promoting the Spanish language around the world.