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Alcalá monumental

Alcalá still shows us its origins. The University Campus was land originally owned by the archbishops of Toledo, who built what is now known as the Archbishop's Palace, built as a castle fortress and used later as a palace. The significance of this place is that it hosted the first meeting between Christopher Columbus and the Catholic Monarchs in 1486.

The monastery of St. Bernard welcomes us with its big elliptical dome. We are surrounded by the central altarpiece and paintings of Angelo Nardi, one of the most unique, the Virgin breast feeding St Bernard. Also worth visiting is the museum, where we find a beautiful embossed silver chest belonging to King Charles I, or rooms that remind us of the monastic life of the Cistercian nuns.

The regional archaeological museum is unique and located in the old church of the Dominican convent of the Mother of God, the ceiling paintings bear witness to the originality of this place. This is actually a museum for viewing and touching. We can play with the flint tools used by primitive man, see a reconstruction of a house from 2,500 BC, and view beautiful mosaics from the site of Complutum, such as those of Zeus and Leda.

The Magistral Cathedral was built on the place where the holy children Justo and Pastor were buried. This is one of only two churches in the world which has the title 'Magistral', allowing professors to grant degrees. Curiously of note in the painted chapels of this Cathedral, and quite deceiving to the eye, are the detailed columns, which are made of stone and are painted. This "trick of the eye" was used throughout many chapels during the twentieth century to replace the orginal chapels that had disappeared over time. This cathedral is located next to the Plaza de la Picota, where prisoners were publicly shown and judged back in the Middle Ages.

Main street, center of the Jewish suburb of Alcalá still remains today one of the main streets and has held this significance since the Middle Ages. Amongst its highlights, its columns, which have witnessed a lot of history and its famous peepholes used by traders in these arcades during the Middle Ages. These peepholes were used to confirm who was calling at their door and also used as a means to drop the keys down to the person in question.

In the main street, a beautiful courtyard greets us at the hospital of Antezana. This is a free hospital, where San Ignacio de Loyola worked and lived during his time as a student of theology at the University of Alcalá. One can read an inscription of his on one of its walls.

In the heart of the city we can find the university of Alcalá. One of the first examples of a modern age university, founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499,with its impressive facade designed by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon and the auditorium, where every year the Cervantes Prize for Literature is awarded.

To end the tour of the city one should not miss the picturesque Laredo Palace, with its fancy architectural beauty, the interior with its rooms inspired by the world famous Alhambra in Granada. Also, we can see the Complutense Bible edited in several languages (the first edition of the full Bible in various languages, of which there were 600 copies made, although now there remain only 123 copies in the world). Historians tell us that most of the copies were lost in a shipwreck when they were being transported to Rome.

No doubt this tour of Monumental Alcalá will help us understand and appreciate the beauty of the only World Heritage city within the province of Madrid, with more than 2000 years of history.