What nature does not give, Salamanca does not lend. Meaning, if you are not good, you have no business in here. A slogan that makes it quite clear that in the Middle Ages being politically correct was not in vogue.
And that’s that the Salamanca University is a Medieval institution. So much so that its foundation dates back to the year 1218 and this makes it the oldest university in Spain and one of the first in old Europe.
To be more specific, that year, 1218, was the year in which Alfonso IX granted the category of General School to what was taught here, but the so-called cathedral schools already existed from decades before and were, of course, linked to the church. In those times, knowledge was an almost exclusive patrimony to the religious.
A couple of centuries later they began to build what now are historical university buildings: the Major Schools, the Minor Schools and the Study Hospital. All face the emblematic Square that presides over a statue of Fray Luis de León and which is called, precisely, Patio de Las Escuelas (Schools Courtyard).
But, where is the famous frog? You are probably wondering. It’s right here, in the Plateresque façade of the Major Schools. The custom is to take a long time to find it, and then ask what the hell does that batrachian placed on a skull means.
Well, the thing is that there are many different theories, but none with a definitive answer. It can be a warning of the brevity of life, a symbol of lust, a reference to the Inquisition, or none of those things. In any case, don’t forget to pay attention to the rest of the façade, it is a marvel from 1533 and many people, concentrated in finding the little animal, barely take notice of it.
The University of Salamanca was a breeding ground for a kind of golden age of humanist thought. In the sixteenth century a new continent appeared, and with enormous changes on the men’s way of thinking, figures such as Francisco de Vitoria inspired a new vision on transcendental things such as the rights of indigenous people or the morality of wars.
With characters like this in their past, it is normal that the prestige of the institution appears even in the pages of Don Quixote. In it, Sansón Carrasco ditches a discussion appealing to his title and affirming that, when one is a bachelor for Salamanca, "There is no more to say”.
This university has produced fascinating characters for centuries, and Patrick Curtis belongs to that list, a venerable Irish scholar who, while teaching Astronomy here, directed a network of espionage designed to annoy the Napoleonic army. And in Salamanca, you see, they were even capable of winning wars disguised as astronomers.