Located in the heart of Castile, birthplace of the Spanish language, Salamanca is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and the oldest in Spain. Granted a Royal Charter by King Alfonso IX of León in 1218, the University of Salamanca has been one of Spain’s premier centers of learning for almost 800 years, counting among its alumni the explorer Hernán Cortés, the French Cardinal and statesman Jules Mazarin, Golden Age theologian and academic Fray Luis de León, and the author, philosopher, and playwright, Miguel de Unamuno. Christopher Columbus traveled to the city to present his proposal for his voyage to the New World before the Council of Salamanca in the Dominican Convent of Saint Stephen. Later, the group of scholars known as the School of Salamanca was the first to debate the implications of colonization, questioning the rights of the indigenous peoples of the New World, exploring the concept of natural law, and formulating the bases of our modern understanding of human rights.
Salamanca has always played a fundamental role in the study of the Spanish language. In 1492, Antonio de Nebrija wrote his Gramática de la lengua castellana in Salamanca, a work of momentous importance and the first of its kind not only for Spanish but also all modern European languages. Today Universidad de Salamanca retains its reputation as the premier university for the study of Spanish, attracting students from all over Spain and the world.