Alcalá de Henares, University of

   New Spanish university formally founded in 1499 by Cardinal Francisco Ximénes de Cisneros, archbishop of Toledo. After careful preparation, instruction began in 1508. Although Cardinal Ximénes was a conservative friar, he was determined to reform the Spanish church by fostering deeper spirituality and by creating a new leadership based on merit rather than family influence. This goal implied preparation of an educated elite of future leaders of the clergy. Even though Ximénes was in no way a humanist, he realized that this goal meant an emphasis on study of the Bible and therefore provided professorships in Hebrew and Greek, the two biblical languages. Thus even though founded by a conservative Franciscan theologian, Alcalá became the first university that fulfilled the humanists' goal of trilingual (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) learning.
   Ximénes also sponsored scholarly study of the text of the Bible, assembling a team of experts who produced a multilingual edition known as the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. Although formal theological instruction was still based on medieval scholastic authors, the emphasis on linguistic study of the biblical sources aligned the university with Renaissance humanism and made Alcalá one of the centers for the growth of humanism in 16th-century Spain.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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