October 30, 2012

0371 SPAIN (Community of Madrid) - University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares (UNESCO WHS)

Much can be said about Alcalá de Henares (Citadel on the river Henares), located at 35 km northeast of the city of Madrid. If you ask a historian to give some briefly information about this city, will say that due to the strategic position of the river Henares' valley there existed over time a Celtiberian settlement called Iplacea, then the Roman Municipium of Complutum, subsequently occupied by the Visigoths, and finally a moorish citadel (al-qal'a means even "citadel" in Arabic), today known as Alcalá la Vieja (Old Alcalá), conquered  in 1118 by the Christians. An architect would talk about the wonderful Isabelline Gothic style of the Cathedral-Magistral of Saints Justus and Pastor, and about the Universitas Complutensis, which will influence, from the architectural point of view but not only, many subsequent academic institutions, until in nowadays.

A lettered would remind that in Alcalá de Henares was born Miguel de Cervantes, and the city hosts every year the ceremony awarding the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in literature. A biographer of Christopher Columbus would insist to the fact that in this city the famous navigator had his first meeting with Queen Isabella la Católica, who financed the travel for the Discovery of America, in a place which later will be called Casa de la Entrevista (the house of the interview).

A theologian wouldn't escape the opportunity to talk about the concept of the ideal city, Civitas Dei (the City of God), which was first given material expression there, from where it was widely diffused throughout the world, but also about the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, the first polyglot Bible, which was printed at Alcalá under the care of Cardinal Cisneros. A proffesor will tell you that Alcalá de Henares was the world's first planned university city, and its University was one of the first in the world.

A devout Catholic would talk about the relics of the Christian martyrs Justus and Pastor which are at the Catedral de los Santos Niños in Alcalá, one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain. A Jew or an Arab  would emphasize the contribution of the Sephardi and the Moors to the development of the town in Middle Ages, and the cultural heritage that they left it (both proved by the fact that even today it includes a Moorish quarter and a Jewish quarter), but also the persecutions, the pogroms and forced Christianization.

A doctor would boast with Alcala’s Hospital de Antezana, now used as a home for the aged, the oldest functioning hospital in Europe, founded in 1483 as a charity hospital, where Rodrigo de Cervantes, Miguel’s father, worked as surgeon. An ecologist would try to amaze you with its population of white storks, of which nests can be observed atop many of the churches and historic buildings. And a romanian would hasten to add that Alcalá has the largest community (almost 18%) of Romanian immigrants in Spain, with over 35.000 people, who created even a political party in 2007.

In the postcard can be seen Santa e Insigne Catedral-Magistral de los Santos Justo y Pastor (Holy and Illustrious Cathedral-Magistral of Saints Justus and Pastor), erected between 1497 and 1514, on the place of some earlier churchs, which have succeeded since 414 AD. It is one of only two churches in the world with the special title "Magistral" (along with St. Peter's Church in Leuven, Belgium), that means that all of the canons who serve there possess the academic distinction of Doctor of Theology. The cathedral is part of University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares, an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989.

About the stamps

The first stamp, depicting even the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares, is part of a series dedicated to the World Heritage Sites (Patrimonio mundial de la humanidad). Issued on November 30, 2001, the series is composed from 12 stamps, all with the same value, 0.24 EUR:

• Churches of the Vall de Boí
• Mystery play of Elche
• Hospital of Saint Paul
San Cristóbal de La Laguna - It's on the postcard 0809

• Archaeological sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca
Palmeral of Elche
• Monuments of Oviedo - It's on the postcard 0668
Roman Walls of Lugo
• Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin
• Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture - It's on the postcard 0683
• Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco - It's on the postcard 2643
University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares - It's on the postcard 0371

The second stamp belongs to a series dedicated to Centenary of the Royal Automobile Club of Spain, issued on June 27, 2003. This series contains four stamps, depicting automobile:
• Hispano Suiza 20/30 HP (0.76 EUR)
• Pegasus Z-102 Berlinetta Touring (1.85 EUR)
• Dodge Dart Barreiros (0.26 EUR)
• Seat 600 (0.51 EUR) - It's on the postcard

Alcalá de Henares - Wikipedia
University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares - UNESCO official site
Alcalá de Henares and its famous university - The Guardian
Sellos España 2001 - Patrimonio mundial de la humanidad - Sellos de Correos
Stamps issued with ES046.03 - UPU official site

Sender: Fabienne (direct swap)
Sent from Madrid (Madrid / Spain), on 27.09.2012
Photo: Hans Löhr

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