University of Salamanca

University of Salamanca

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Salamanca University (Universidad de Salamanca) is the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. Dating back to 1218, it was founded under the orders of King León Alfonso IX. Today, highlights of a visit to the University of Salamanca include its Fray Luis de León lecture hall and its Plateresque façade as well as a ceiling painted by Fernando Gállego.

University of Salamanca history

The University of Salamanca was founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX and was Spain’s first institution of higher education. In 1254 three chairs in canon law and one each in grammar, arts, and physics were established. From that time until the end of the 16th century, Salamanca was one of the leading centres of learning in Europe, ranking with Paris, Bologna, and Oxford.

The university was at its peak in 1584, with nearly 7,000 students. A decline began at the end of the 16th century, and by 1875 enrolment was down to 391. In the early 19th century, a quarter of Salamanca containing many university buildings was destroyed by the French when the defeat of Napoleon ended their occupation of Spain.

The city of Salamanca owes its most essential features to the University. The remarkable group of buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles collectively make up the university complex and make Salamanca an exceptional example of an old university town in the Christian world, such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The University of Salamanca’s Escuelas Mayores building’s facade is possibly the best example there is of Plateresque architecture specific to Spain and its territories during the early Renaissance period, and the university’s upcoming 800th anniversary in 2018 has prompted a restoration project that will be completed by the end of November after four months of demanding work.

University of Salamanca today

Today, Salamanca University consists of the colleges of Law, Liberal Arts, and Science and Medicine, as well as a number of other highly regarded academic units such as its Spanish language institute. The university has an annual population of 30,000 students participating in upwards of 250 academic programs.

To see the inner parts of the university, visitors may need to buy tickets and be aware of opening times.

The famous facade of the University of Salamanca’s Escuelas Mayores building is a rich tapestry of carvings. A popular tradition involves identifying the frog within the carvings of the facade, succeeding in this is supposed to bring good luck.

Getting to the University of Salamanca

The university is located centrally, close to Plaza Mayor, Casa de las Conchas and other monuments.

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Go Study Spain, Learn Spanish Abroad in Spain

Salamanca University is one of the oldest universities in Europe and was founded by the Spanish King Alfonse IX in 1218. 36 years later it was acknowledged by Pope Alexander IV and was meant to be one of the four great Universities of the world, along with the universities of Oxford, Paris and Bologna. During its many years of existence, Salamanca University has had many important teachers and students, including professors such as Luis de León, Beatriz de Galindo, Melchor Cano, Francisco de Vitoria and Miguel de Unamuno and students such as Miguel de Cervantes, Hernando Cortes and Christopher Columbus.

The university's golden period was during the 16th century when gold coming from conquest of South America was used to help finance its expansion in 1584 reaching a student number of 6.778 students. In the 19th century the number of students dropped to only 412 and during this period the university was in serious risk of being shut down.

Initially Salamanca University had five official faculties Canon Law, Law, Theology, Medicine and Arts-Philosophy, as well as complementary teaching in Humanities, Languages, Mathematics and Music. During the crisis in the 19th century, the faculties of the University were reduced to Law, Philosophy and Arts, and Theology, later being eliminated in 1868. In 1869 the local city council, pressured by the dean Miguel de Unamuno, decided to finance a Medicine and Sciences faculty.

Today the University of Salamanca has Faculties of Law, Arts, Humanities, Science and Medicine and, of course, Spanish Language Courses for foreigners.
With more than 30,000 students per year and more than 250 different programmes offered, it is still one of the most important universities in Spain.

Spanish Courses History

In 1929 Salamanca University started to offer Spanish language and culture courses to foreign students studying at the university. Later on, this was developed into a department specializing in this area, offering courses specifically for student coming to Salamanca to learn Spanish. Today more than 3.500 foreign students participate in the many different Spanish Language programs offered by the university.

The quality and experience of Salamanca University in arranging Spanish courses has been acknowledged by the Instituto Cervantes (the official governmental institution for the Spanish language). Salamanca University was assigned the task of preparing the yearly DELE exam papers, which is the official language exam for Spanish as a foreign language.

The Spanish courses take place in one of the traditional university buildings called 'Escuelas Menores', located right in the heart of the historic centre of Salamanca. This is a very nice Renaissance building with a magnificient patio, the interior having been renovated to modern standards.

  • Location: Northwestern Spain approximately 200 kilometres west of Madrid and 80 km east of the Portuguese border.
  • Population:213,399 in the metropolitan region.
  • Climate: Continental Mediterranean, with cold winters, and hot summers softened by the altitude and dryness throughout the year.

Student Feedback

“The Nightlife, the Fiestas, the Concerts, the People from almost everywhere in the World, and the Atmosphere, international and very open at the same time. Gonna miss this Place!”
Miguel Schiele, former Spanish language student in Salamanca.

Christopher Columbus has been to the school. he argued his case to a council at the University of Salamanca for going to travel across the ocean and eplore the Indies in 1492.

Legend has it that if you can find the image of the skull and frog on the school's famous facade, it gives students good luck on their next exam. However, as we learned in our literature class, the symbol of a skull was meant to warn of death and the symbol of the frog to represent lust so really, its intention is to warn students against lust and distractions.

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Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.


A state institution of higher learning that originated in a 13th-century center of Spanish culture.

Early History Like all Spanish universities founded before the 14th century, Salamanca was created by royal decree and not by papal bull, although academic degrees were conferred in the name of both pope and king in a ceremony held in the cathedral. Like many early European universities, however, it had its origin in a cathedral school (see cathedral and episcopal schools) directed by a magister scholarum, although, unlike its French counterpart, the University of paris, its emphasis was not so much on theology as on law.

Founded by Alfonso IX of Leon (c. 1227) shortly before his death (1230), Salamanca had no foundation charter and did not take root as an institution of higher learning until ferdinand iii, King of Castille, issued a charter on April 6, 1243, confirming the privileges that his father had granted the students when he established higher schools or universities properly so-called (studia generalia ) and lower schools or colleges (studia ). The university's academic equilibrium, however, continued unsettled until 1254 when Ferdinand's scholarly son, Alfonso X, the Wise (1221 – 84), issued his "magna charta" that launched the institution on a long period of prosperity and intellectual progress with the establishment of three chairs in Canon and civil law, and one each in grammar, arts (including the organon and logic), and physics.

Despite the university's organization by royal decree as a studium generale, its schools retained the constitutional features of cathedral schools, which were sponsored by the bishop, and directed by a magister scholarum or scholasticus who, as Rashdall points out, played a more important role in Spanish universities than the grand chancellor at the University of Paris or bologna. Even the term claustro (cloister), commonly used throughout Spain to indicate the university building or academic staff, emphasizes the close affiliation that existed between universities and cathedrals.

At Alfonso's request, in April 1255 Pope Alexander IV issued a bull recognizing the existing studium generale at Salamanca and conferring on it extensive privileges of ecclesiastical exemption applicable to the university as a corporate body, to administrative officers, and to students. To graduates he granted the licentia docendi at all studia generalia except Paris and Bologna. Pope John XX in 1333 lifted this restriction on the jus ubique docendi.

In 1263, Alfonso the Wise issued the Siete Partidas, containing the first educational code of its kind in Europe, and in which, according to D'Irsay, Title II deals extensively with universities. In this code, Alfonso (1) clarified the meaning of studium (school) and studium generale (university) (2) recognized the union of masters and students as a universitas, and the university as an autonomous organization empowered to elect its own rector (3) provided a modest endowment to pay professors' salaries and other expenses (4) gave particular emphasis to the study of law and (5) introduced music into the curriculum, making Salamanca apparently the first European university to offer music degrees.

Decline and Revival. Toward the end of the century, however, when Alfonso's son Sancho IV (1257 – 95) neglected to pay the meager endowment stipulated by his father, the unpaid professors went on strike and the studium was suspended. In 1300, Ferdinand IV (1285 – 1312), Sancho's son and successor, in an endeavor to restore the university to its earlier vigor, decided to transfer the ecclesiastical tithes from the churches to the university and in 1301 Pope Boniface VII approved the plan. In 1306, however, Pope Clement V ordered the tithes restored to the churches, which, deprived of financial support, had fallen into disrepair. The university was then again suspended until 1313 when Clement, in an attempt to solve the complex problem, allotted a third of the tithes to remunerate the professors of civil and Canon law, logic, grammar, music, and medicine. In fact, medicine, which had flourished in the 13th century in the universities of Salerno and Montpellier and then declined, was revived at Salamanca by professors who had translated the works of Avicenna and Averro ë s from the Arabic. Also during this period, notably sterile in literary pursuits, Salamanca together with Paris, Bologna, and oxford was ordered by the council of Vienne (1311 – 12) to introduce the study of Arabic and other Eastern languages. Theology was introduced into the studium in 1355 but did not gain prominence until 1416 when the antipope benedict xiii (Pedro de Luna) gave the university a constitution similar to that of Bologna and established chairs in theology. In 1422 Pope Martin V drew up definitive constitutions, reestablished the chairs of theology, and numbered Salamanca among the four greatest universities of the world (Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Salamanca). By the 16th century Salamanca had become a theological center to which the popes could turn for champions of the faith, a position that it held throughout the 17th century.

During the reign of Charles V (1500 – 58) and Philip II (1527 – 98) new statutes were added to Martin V's constitutions, the curriculum was reorganized, and Salamanca reached the highest peak of its development. By the 1560s the university had 11 chairs in philosophy and logic ten in Canon Law seven each in medicine and in theology four in Greek two in Hebrew and Chaldaean one each in music and in astronomy and 17 in grammar and rhetoric. The Faculty of Theology was divided into Prime and Vespers (according to the canonical hours), with chairs in the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and the nominalists. The Bible included both the Old and the New Testament offered in alternate years. Peter Lombard's Sententiae were studied in both Prime and Vespers. In 1526 F. de vitoria introduced Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae as a textbook into Prime, and in the 1530s D. de Soto used it as a text in Vespers.

Although in the 16th century the university was one of the largest in Europe, ranking with Oxford and Paris as a center of learning, in the early years enrollment at Salamanca was small. In fact, in 1335 the century-old university had only 439 students, including masters, licentiates, bachelors, and scholars in the various faculties. The numbers gradually increased, however, in the 15th and through the 16th centuries until in 1552 they totaled 6,328 and in 1584, 6,778, the highest in its history. In the 17th century numbers began a steady decrease with 4,000 in 1601 3,908 in 1641 2,000 in 1701 1,500 in 1750 1,000 in the early 19th century 412 in 1822 and 391 in 1875, its nadir.

Colleges and Schools. For almost 175 years, however, Salamanca had no colleges or schools. The first of the four famous major colleges, the College of St. Bartholom é , later the Old College, was founded in 1401 by Diego de Anaya Maldonado, Archbishop of Seville, for poor students, to include ten canonists and five theologians. Other major colleges were Cuenca, founded in 1500 Monte Olivete, in 1517 and Fonseca, also known as the Archbishop's College, in 1521. A number of minor colleges also developed in rapid succession in the 16th century: St. Thomas of Canterbury (1510), sponsored by the English hierarchy for the training of priests St. Millan (1517) Santa Maria (in 1528 renamed Juan de Burgos) Santa Cruz of Canizares (c. 1534) Santa Magdalena, sponsored by the Order of Knights Santa Susanna (Norbertines, 1570) Guadalupe (Brethren of the Common Life, 1572) St. Pelayo (1546), St. Elias (Discalced Carmelites, 1581) and four military colleges.

In 1592 under the sponsorship of Philip III and at the request of Thomas White, SJ, an Irish College, El Real Colegio de Nobles Irlandeses, was founded at Salamanca. It was open to students from all Irish provinces, although it was contended at the time that White had refused to receive students from Ulster and Connaught or the exiled chiefs, O'Neil and O'Donnell. The college was the training ground for many eminent Irish clergymen and members of the hierarchy. It was administered by Spanish Jesuits with an Irish Jesuit as vice rector, until 1767 when the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and the college, later known as St. Patrick's, was entrusted to the secular clergy. The college was closed after World War II and the library holdings were transferred to St. Patrick's College (Maynooth).

In 1600 the Discalced Carmelites at the university founded a school of philosophy called Salamina. A group of its teachers, the Salmanticenses, were the authors of the Cursus Theologicus Summam d. Thomae Complectens, an encyclopedic commentary on the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, designed to provide a solid theological basis for the friars of the Teresian reform which took 70 years to complete.

Pontifical University of Salamanca. In the late 18th century the liberals suppressed the major colleges under the pretext of decadence, without, however, replacing them and in the early 19th century they closed the minor colleges. The laws of 1845 finally dissolved the last remnant of the medieval university, replacing it with a secular institution under government control. The Faculty of Theology was discontinued in 1868.

To replace the ecclesiastical faculties, the Spanish episcopate founded the Pontifical University of Salamanca in September 1940. The university is under the jurisdiction of an episcopal commission, the president of which is the cardinal archbishop of Toledo, primate of Spain. The bishop of Salamanca is the secretary general of the commission and grand chancellor of the university. The university opened with the faculties of theology, Canon Law, and philosophy, and expanded into the other humanities and sciences, offering bachelor, licentiate, and doctoral degrees.

Bibliography: h. rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, ed. f. m. powicke and a. b. emden, 3 v. (new ed. Oxford 1936). s. d'irsay, Histoire des universit é s fran ç aises et é trang è res des origines à nos jours, 2 v. (Paris 1933 – 35). c. pozo, Lexikon f ü r Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957 – 65) 9:256 – 258 Fuentes para la historia del metodo teol ó gico en la Escuela de Salamanca (Granada 1962) v.1. f. mart Í n hernandez, La Formaci ó n clerical en los colegios universitarios espa ñ oles (Vitoria 1961). p. urbano gonz Á lez de la calle and a. huarte y echenique, Constituciones de la Universidad de Salamanca, 1422 (Madrid 1927). l. sala balust, ed., Constituciones, estatutosy ceremonias de los antiquos colegios seculares de la Universidad de Salamanca (Madrid 1962 – 63) v.1 – 2.

University of Salamanca

This university had its beginning in the Cathedral School under the direction, from the twelfth century, of a magister scholarum (chancellor). From this episcopal origin, probably in 1230, sprang the royal foundation of Alfonso IX of Léon, who "with was salutary discretion summoned the most experienced masters of sacred letters and established schools " (Lucas de Tuy ) which, however, does no signify, as Rashdall infers, that they taught theology. Alfonso IX granted them the privileges alluded to later by St. Ferdinand, who was in reality the founder, the foundation of his father not having endured. On 6 April, 1243, in letters patent, the saintly king took under his protection the professors, students, and their property, granting them an ecclesiastical tribunal for the settlement of their disputes. In his time began that period of unrivalled prosperity for the university, which for so many centuries made it the "glory of Spain " ( Denifle ). In Toledo on 8 May, 1254, the king granted the university the privileges that are its Magna Carta, appointing curators, placing it under the authority of the bishop, exempting it from the regular authorities, and assigning salaries for the professors. The professors of law received 500 maravedis a year, canon law 300, grammar, logic, and medicine 200. Some have endeavoured to trace an analogy between these privileges and those granted by Ferdinant I and II to the Universities of Bolgna and Naples.

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But the fundamental difference that characterized the Spanish university must not be overlooked, that, although a royal foudnation, it was placed under the direction and control of the bishop, the dean, and the chancellor, who conferred the academic titles in the cathedral. The titles were given until 1830 in the name of the pope and king. Doctrinal and ecclesiastical professorships did not, however, contrary to Stein's view, predominate in the university ( Denifle ). Departments of medicine and juriprudencewere also established, and preference was given to the law, epecially canon law. By petition of theking, 6 Aril, 1255, Alexander IV confirmed the courses at Salamanca, "because in the multitude of the wise is the security of kingdoms, and their govrnments are mantained not less by the advice of the prudent, than by the energy and bravery of the strong". Later he decreed that any accepted teachr in any branch whatsoeveer at Salamanca cold teach his subject in any other university, with the exceptioni of Paris and Bologna, a limitation wich John XXII instituted in 1333. The principles Alfonso the Wise had put into practice in Salamanca, he drew from the "Leyes de Partida", commenced in 1256 and terminated in 1263. Rashdall calls this "a sort of educational code &mdash the first of its kind in modern Europe ". In the time of Sancho the Brave the studies declined because the salaries of the professors were not paid. Finally, Ferdinand IV, authorized by Boniface VIII, assigned for this purpjose the "tertia ecclesarum" and from this date, 7 August, 1300, the university entered upon a new era of prosperity.

Classes were once more discontinued from 1306 to 1313, when Clement V commanded the "tertia" to be used in restoring the churches. In 1313 a third of the "tertia" was once more devoted to paying the professors of law, civil and canon, medicine, logic, grammar, and music. In 1355 the minorite friar, Dídaco Lupi, taught theology in Salamanca but this branch, which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was to draw the eyes of the entire world to Salamanca, did not flourish there until Benedict XIII introduced it in 1416, and Martin V re-established it in 1422. This pope gave the university its definitive constitution, and numbered it among the four greatest in the world. In 1401 the bishop, Diego de Anaya Maldonado, founded the first college for poor students, which was called the College of San Bartolomé and later the Old College. This and the colleges of Cuenca, Oviedo, and Fonseca were called "colegios mayores", larger colleges. Aftwerwards a great number of "colegios menores", smaller colleges, secular, regular, and of the four military orders were founded. The Liberals suppressed the "colegios mayores" under the pretext of their decadence but without substituting anyting better, or even equally good, to help the poor students. Following this the "colegios menores" were also closed. The laws of 1845 swept aside the last remaning vestures of these ancient establishments for university training, secularizing them and placing them under the control of the Liberal Government. The number of students at Salamanca in 1584 reached 6778 in 1822 it amounted only to 412, and later it dropped even lower. In the catalogue of its professors figure the names of some celebrated women, such as Doña Beatriz Gallindo and Doña Alvara de Alava.

Salamanca History Facts and Timeline

Spain's most important university city, Salamanca, has a history stretching back well before the arrival of the Romans.

It has played pivotal roles in several of the major events that shaped the Iberian Peninsula, from the struggle between Christians and Moors to the Spanish Civil War. The city has a heady mix of university culture and stunning architecture.

The Roads of Rome

Though the history of Salamanca begins with the Celtic tribe known as the Vacceos, it rose to prominence when the Romans made their presence known in the 3rd century BC. At that time, it was called Helmantica, being an important hub of Roman commerce based alongside the Via de la Plata road. This artery connected Merida with Astorga. Of interest, the 1st-century Roman bridge that was part of this road still stands in Salamanca today.

Christians versus Moors

In the year of 712 AD, Salamanca surrendered to the Moorish force headed up by Musa bin Nusayr, the general who led the conquest of Visigoth-controlled Iberia. The history of Salamanca during the three centuries that followed was one of constant conflict between the Christian north and the Muslim south.

A Depopulated City

The entire region was one of the main battlefields between the Muslim Al-Andalus rulers and the kingdoms of Leon and Castile. For decades the fighting raged on, essentially decimating the population of Salamanca and reducing it to little more than a backwater settlement. It wasn't until the end of the Battle of Simancas in 939 AD that the Christians felt secure enough to return to this area.

The Rebirth of the City

When Alonso VI the Brave, King of Leon and Castile, gained control of Toledo in 1085, the tide finally turned against the Moors in Iberia. Within a few years, most of Spain was under Christian control and Salamanca began to rebuild with purpose. Raymond of Burgundy, a major player in the royal family of Castile, led the resettlement of the city in 1102.

A University City is Born

The most important event in Salamanca's history came in 1218 when King Alonso IX of Leon gave a royal charter to the University of Salamanca. Though the university had been teaching since the second quarter of the 12th century, the royal charter transformed it into one of Europe's most prestigious centres of learning and debate.

Spain's oldest university, and Europe's third-oldest, the University of Salamanca remains the driving force of the city today. The city reached the apex of its glory during the 16th century, when the leading lights of scholars from across Europe lived here.

Centre of War

When Spain fought France in the Peninsular War of Napoleon, the 1812 Battle of Salamanca proved a defining moment in the eventual retreat of the French. The city also suffered dearly, with most of its western quarter severely damaged.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) also thrust Salamanca into the history books, when the city sided with the Nationalists and was briefly used as their capital. The national troops stored all of Spain's official documents here, creating a huge historic archive of the Civil War that remains today.

When democracy was finally restored to Spain, the city returned to its role as the country's centre of academia. UNESCO declared the Old City a World Heritage Site in 1988, to honour the rich cultural heritage that Salamanca has experienced over its lifetime.

About Salamanca

Salamanca is a welcoming, small to medium size city, well known because its sights, safety and lively ambience. The warming locals sum up with the comfort of a walkable downtown, which makes it the perfect venue to enjoy and learn.

Salamanca is a pleasant, safe and vibrant with centuries of history and tradition and a great cultural and academic offer. Far from any doubt, it is the perfect place to learn Spanish.

The city of Salamanca, located in the midwestern part of the Spanish Peninsula, is well connected to Madrid and other predominate cities that, together, offer centuries of uniquely enriched history with unparalleled cultural and leisure activities. In addition to its magnificent heritage, population, and customs, Salamanca is an accessible city with an urban center completely walkable. Furthermore, it was named one of Spain´s safest cities in 2018.

Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and European Capital of Culture in 2002, and it is famous for its culture and its artistic assets, such as the Cathedrals or the Major Square, never to mention its more than well-known University.

The University of Salamanca started its activity as soon as 1218, being thus the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in the world, as well as one of the most important features of the city and core of its academic life. It is this care for education and students that have made Salamanca a dynamic and open space, where alumni worldwide gather.

All in all, is this Salamanca’s lively ambience, the many cultural opportunities, coffee shops and nightlife provide incoming visitors and foreign students with a unique, unforgettable experience.

As Miguel de Cervantes once wrote:

«Salamanca puts a spell on the will to come back to those who enjoyed its placid shelter»

Miguel de Cervantes

This is a garden of about 2,500 square meters located in the historical center of Salamanca, which offers a beautiful sight of the Cathedrals and the Tormes River. Its name comes from Fernando de Rojas’ choice to use it as stage for its novel “La Celestina”, book published in the year 1502.

This garden is located next to the Antique Wall of Salamanca, right at by the Tormes River. Nowadays it’s a public park considered to have a romantic scenery due to the love story that the characters from Rojas’ book played out on it. It was first opened in the year 1981.

Watch the video: studying abroad week 1: salamanca spain


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