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Alcala De Henares | Spain

Alcalá de Henares (Spanish pronunciation: [alkaˈla ðe eˈnaɾes]), meaning Citadel on the river Henares, in Arabic قلعة النار, is a Spanish city located 35 kilometres (22 miles) northeast of the country's capital, Madrid. It stands out for its rich archaeology and was one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain. Locally, it is generally known simply as "Alcalá", but "de Henares" is appended when needed to differentiate it from a dozen Spanish cities sharing the name Alcalá (from the Arabic word al-qal'a القلعة for fortification or citadel). The Latin name, Complutum, is sometimes used. The city is the capital of its namesake region, Comarca de Alcalá. Its historical centre is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Every year on 23 April, the anniversary of Cervantes' death, the city of Alcalá hosts the ceremony awarding the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in literature. The award is presented by the King of Spain at the University of Alcalá's historic "Colegio de San Ildefonso." Speeches about the importance of the Spanish language are customarily given by the King, the Minister of Culture and the laureate. The ceremony attracts a wide range of dignitaries to the city including members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and others. During this ceremony the citizens of Alcalá can be heard singing the city's song, entitled "Alcalá de Henares."

Other notable figures associated with the city are Ferdinand I of Aragon, cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the mystic John of the Cross, the theologian Gabriel Vázquez, the poet Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de Hita, and Manuel Azaña Díaz, writer and politician, who was President of the Second Spanish Republic between 1936 and 1939. The historian Antonio de Solís was also probably born here. Ignatius of Loyola was once a student at the university, yet after several confrontations with the Spanish Inquisition, he left the city.

The Universidad Complutense, one of the oldest universities in the world, was founded by King Sancho IV of Castile as Studium Generale in 1293 in Alcalá de Henares. With the patronage of Cardinal Cisneros, it was recognized in a 1499 papal bull, and quickly gained international fame as a main centre of learning of the Renaissance thanks to the production of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible in 1517, which is the basis for most of the current translations. The university moved to Madrid in 1836 by royal decree (initially as the Universidad de Madrid, later as the Universidad Central, which in the 1970s would finally be renamed Universidad Complutense de Madrid). A new university was founded in the old buildings as the Universidad de Alcalá in 1977. Parts of the new university occupy the buildings of the old Universidad Complutense in the city centre, including the modern Colegio de San Ildefonso, and other Colegios, and the structures have served as a model for other universities across the Spanish territories in the Americas and other dependencies.

The center of the city remains essentially medieval, with many winding cobbled streets, and many historic buildings. The city centre surrounds Cervantes Square (the famous Plaza de Cervantes) and is traversed by a long pedestrian main street, the Calle Mayor. The city includes the Moorish quarter, the Jewish quarter, and the Christian quarter. These distinct neighborhoods have given Alcalá the reputation of "the city of three cultures."

The old city centre has been largely preserved, unlike the suburbs. There has been no clear planning by the city councillors regarding expansion, and the sprawling suburban areas are irregularly constructed, with the addition of 1970s-style high rise blocks in many places.

One of the most important streets in the city is the Calle del Cardenal Cisneros which takes tourists from the Madrid Gate at the entrance of the city, to the old city center and the Cathedral in Santos Niños Square. The main park of Alcalá, Parque Municipal O'Donnell is a major recreational center for city residents and lies along a main road of Alcalá, Vía Complutense.

Recent archaeological excavations have opened up the city’s Roman forum where a large complex comprising a basilica, public baths, a cryptoporticus, a market and a large monumental façade stands out. Alongside the forum is the Domus with an extraordinary collection of Roman domestic mural paintings. On the outskirts is the House of Hippolytus, an old school. In turn, the Regional Archaeology Museum holds highly valuable mosaics.

The city hosts a large population of international students due to the presence of the university, and in particular its Spanish language and literature programs for foreign students. Alcalingua, a branch of University of Alcalá, is one of the major foreign language learning centers for students from abroad.

Alcalá's excellent transport links with Madrid have led to its becoming a commuter town, with many of its inhabitants travelling to work in the capital. By Cercanias (railway) is the lines C2 and C7 that links Alcala de Henares with Madrid in 35 minutes, or Guadalajara in 25 minutes, also exists in the peak hours trains called CIVIS, direct train, that makes the journey in 20 minutes. Also it is linked by bus to Madrid, Guadalajara and several towns and villages in nearby. By car, Alcala de Henares is well linked with the state roads network with the nearby A2, the highway which starts in Madrid and continues on to Barcelona and to France. It was affected particularly badly by the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings in Madrid as all the bombs were placed on trains that originated in, or passed through, Alcalá. There is now a memorial placed at the entrance to the station in remembrance of the victims.

The Jarama was also the scene of fierce fighting in 1937. Nationalist forces crossed the river in an attempt to cut the main road from Madrid to the Republican capital at Valencia. Nationalist forces led by Spanish Legionnaires and Moroccan soldiers (Regulares) of the Army of Africa were confronted by forces from the Republic including the 15th International Brigade. The 15th Brigade contained both the British Battalion of Volunteers and American volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Despite heavy casualties (over 270 British out of 600) the Nationalists were stopped short of their objective. A period of trench warfare followed before the front stabilised. The battle cost both sides a combined total of up to 45,000 casualties.

The song Jarama Valley, with lyrics referencing the battle, became popular among the Republican battalions.

El Atazar Dam is an arch dam built near Madrid, Spain on the Lozoya River, very close to where the Lozoya joins the Jarama. The curved design of the dam is optimum for the narrow gorge in which it was built to retain water in the reservoir. Arch dams are thin and require less material to construct than other dam types.

When the dam was built, the decision was made to use the dam to store and regulate water only and not to provide energy. Construction started on the dam in 1968 and finished in 1972.

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