Entering Alcala by way of the old N-II highway, to the right you
find the old wall, which encircles
the medieval part of the city. There are two openings into the walled
enclosure: the Puerta (door) de Madrid,
substituted in 1778 by a sober Neoclassical structure of stone,
and the Burgos door, today connected
with the Monastery of the Bernadas.
to the wall, joining its path, we find the Outdoor
Museum of Sculptures, which is a combination of the most
diverse authors, styles and materials.
the path of the wall from the Puerta de Madrid, we arrive to the
Palacio Arzobispal. This exceptional
example of 14th and 15th C. architecture was unfortunately destroyed
two times, during the Spanish Civil War and after a terrible fire
in August of 1939. The latter not only ruined a large part of the
monument but also demolished the documentation that was stored in
there as Municipal Archive of the Kingdom.
portal of the Palace is highlighted by the shields of the Cardinal
Infante Luis Alfonso de Borbon, which replaced the shield of Carlos
I in the 18th C. At their sides are two shields of the Cardinal
Fonseca. The upper part of the façade is finished off in
a gallery of arches.
to the Palace is the Cistercian Monastery
of las Bernada, which consists of a Manierista style church
built by Juan Gomez de Mora. The façade is made of a brick
which contrasts with the stone décor. What is really original,
however, is found in the interior: an elliptical dome surrounded
by fours chapels, also elliptical, which are alternated with three
other rectangular chapels. The pictorial decoration of the church
is also notable, especially the altarpiece, a work of Angelo Nardi.
the Plaza del Palacio, we find the Casa de
la Entrevista, commemorating the first meeting between Columbus
(Colon in Spanish) and Queen Isabel, which took place in the Palacio
Arzobispal. It houses the Biblioteca Iberoamericana (Ibero-American
Library) and a room for temporary exhibitions.
you follow straight on down the street of San Juan and after crossing
the Plaza de los Santos Niños, you find the Catedral
Magistral (Magisterial Cathedral), an authentic jewel in
the complutense architecture. The Cathedral is erected on the site
where the Santos Niños (Holy Children), Justo and Pastor,
were buried after their decapitation by order of Daciano in 304.
Its construction was ordered between 1497 and 1516 by Cardinal Cisneros
on the same place where once a small parish was.
main entrance of the church is Gothic in style, with shields and
the typical Franciscan cordon. The high bell tower rises up next
to this façade.
inside is divided by three spacious naves. The center nave is covered
with tercelet vaulting and the side ones with intersecting ribbed
vaulting. These are connected by a polygonal recess. The beautiful
lattice, dating to 1509, stands out with its plant designs. Under
the presbytery, you find the crypt of the Santos Niños.
the Epistle nave, there are openings into several chapels,
starting from the Cristo de la Agonia (Christ
of Agony), Santa María la Rica, San Diego de Alcalá,
and the Virgen del Val, patron saint of Alcalá and,
finally, the access portal to the parish of San Pedro.
As you leave the Magistral, go toward calle
Mayor, a wide and colonnades road with Medieval origin. This
street has always been the commercial nucleus of the urban zone
and the place where the people of Alcala prefer to take their strolls,
as the street is pedestrian. Besides the many charming houses for
the traveler to discover, on Mayor street we find monuments like
the Hospital de Antezana, known as
the Hospitalillo (little hospital), next to it you find the Casa-Museo
de Cervantes, a house and museum built on the site where
is it believed the famous writer was born.
At the end of Mayor, you find the Plaza de
Cervantes, it is the urban center of Alcalá, a meeting
place and starting place to many tour excursions. The plaza is only
colonnaded on two of its sides, since it is the border between the
city and the university neighborhood. Off the Plaza, on Callejón
de Santa María, the Office of Tourism can be located.
From the Plaza, many monuments can be seen: el
Círculo de contribuyentes, a combination of traditional
Alcala and renovative style made of brick and with two exterior
terraces. Of the Capilla del Oidor,
a monument destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, only the Tower
of Santa María and part of the chapel remains. In the chapel,
there is a reproduction of the Baptismal basin used for Cervantes,
made with fragment of the original. The city hall, el Ayuntamiento,
former Colegio de San Carlos Borromeo or school of "de Agonizantes/
the dying", and the Teatro Cervantes,
which can hardly be seen from the outside, as it is camouflaged
among the series of arches. It is a unique monument, an old theatre,
Corral de Comedias de los Zapateros (Shoemakers), preserving the
horseshoe floor and has served as an instrument to better know the
theatre of comedies of the Golden Age.
We also find the Monument to Cervantes,
made of bronze and dating to the year 1879, in this plaza. The relief
of the pedestal, of Don Quijote, is more current (1994). There is
also a music kiosk.
Very near the Plaza we find the Universidad Cisneriana, authentic
emblem of Alcalá: With a precious Renaissance facade, created
by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, it is a harmonious and
Passing through the façade, we access the Patio
de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, the University's first
student to be lifted to the altars. It is a Herrera style patio
with three sets of arches supported by columns. Through this Patio
we find the Patio de los Filósofos,
today a garden.
Lastly, we find the Patio Trilingüe
(Trilingual), a cloister of the school of the same name. It was
called that because here, classes of Hebrew, Latin and Greek were
From the Cloister, the Paraninfo (Auditorium) can be accessed. It
is a lovely hall in which Hispano-Muslim style is combined with
other architectural schools. The artisanship of the ceiling, Mudejar
in style and with "lacería a seis" (ornament imitating
bows), also deserves a mention.
Although many are the monuments and beauty of Alcalá that
are left yet undiscovered, we must end our visit, but not before
discovering one last building: the Palacete
Laredo, located on Paseo de la Estación, is the work
of Manuel Laredo, one of the most celebrated children of Alcala,
also one-time mayor. A highlight of this Palace is the clock tower,
topped by a dome covered in green and white ceramic scales.
The inside of the rooms are decorated according to different styles
and an outstandingly artistic façade.
Each corner of Alcalá holds much to learn and experience.
We recommend a relaxed visit, keeping your eyes wide open to each
detail that the Villa Complutense has to offer.