1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alcalá de Henares

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ALCALÁ DE HENARES, a town of Spain, in the province of Madrid, 17 m. E.N.E. of Madrid, on the river Henares, and the Madrid-Saragossa railway. Pop. (1900) 11,206. Alcalá de Henares contains a military academy and various public institutions, but its commercial importance is slight and its main interest is historical. The town has been identified with the Roman Complutum, which was destroyed about the year 1000, and was rebuilt by the Moors in 1083. In later times it was renowned for its richly endowed university, founded by Cardinal Jimenes de Cisneros in 1510, which at the height of its prosperity numbered 12,000 students, and was second only to that of Salamanca. Here the famous edition of the Bible known as the Complutensian Polyglot was prepared from 1514 to 1517. The college of San Ildefonso, completed in 1583, was the chief university building. Its modernized Gothic church, the Colegiata, contains the 16th century marble monument of Jimenes (d. 1517) and a fine reredos. The greatest of Spanish writers, Cervantes, was born at Alcalá de Henares, and baptized in the otherwise insignificant church of S. Maria on the 9th of October 1547. A tablet, set up in 1840, marks the house in which he is said to have been born. Other illustrious natives of the town were the emperor Ferdinand I. (1503-1564) and the Spanish dramatist and historian Antonio de Solis (1610-1686). After the removal of the university to Madrid in 1836 the town rapidly declined, and the government turned most of the principal buildings erected by Cardinal Jimenes in the 16th century into a depot for the archives of various state departments. Here are kept very complete and curious documents of the Inquisition, showing all its workings from the 15th to the 19th century. One of the principal libraries is the former palace of the archbishops of Toledo.

For a fuller description of Alcalá see the Guia del viajero en Alcalá de Henares, by L. A. de la Torre (Alcalá, 1882). The following works are mainly of historical interest:—M. de Ayala and F. Sastre, Alcalá de Henares (Madrid, 1890); J. C. Garcia, Ensayo de una Tipografia Complutense (Madrid, 1889); M. Portilla y Esquivel, Historia de la ciudad de Compluto (Alcalá, 1725-1728); and the "Annales Complutenses" and "Chronicon Complutense" in España Sagrada, by H. Florez and others (Madrid, 1754-1879).