The city of Salamanca, or “Helmantika”, was founded in the 4th century BC by the Celts and Romanized short after. It constituted an important link of communications of the Ruta de la Plata, the Roman “Road of the Silver” which crossed the Peninsula from North to South. Helmantika was later called Salmantica and finally, since the 13th century, the city got its present name, Salamanca.
In the 8th century, during the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the city was conquered by Musa Ibh Nusair, and Muslim culture took over Christianity.
After the Christian Reconquest, in the 13th century, the king Alfonso IX boosted the development of the city and founded the University of Salamanca, which was ratified by the Pope Alexander in 1255. The city and its university reached great prestige at the time and afterwards, with outstanding figures such as the famous writer Miguel de Unamuno, who was vice-Chancellor at the University of Salamanca.
Another outstanding episode of the Spanish history takes place in Salamanca, when during the Spanish war of Independence, the French army was defeated in the Battle of Arapiles, in 1812.
Salamanca was also a key city during the Spanish Civil War. All the documents obtained by the national troops during the occupation of the country where concentrated in Salamanca, creating a famous archive of documents of the Spanish war.
With the establishment of democracy and the arrival of monarchy in Spain, the prestige of the city and its University flourished again. Salamanca has become a cosmopolitan city and is continuously growing in culture and heritage, as shows its recognition by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, and its recent designation as European Capital of Culture, in the year 2002.
If the political history of Salamanca was not very eventful, it was the diverse incidents in the life of the University, the distribution of the professorships, the relationship between the lecturers and the students, and between the latter and the people of the city, which make up its history up to the 19 century.
In the field of Art, all the styles have left their most worthy and exquisite mark on this city. The Spanish plateresque style, of decorative quality and fine execution, offers its most beautiful examples here in Salamanca. This decorative tendency of the Plateresque style finds of a beautiful golden colour.
Innumerable historical celebrities, from Fray Luis de León, Antonio de Nebrija, Francisco de Vitoria, Cervantes, Menéndez Valdés, San Juan de la Cruz de Miguel de Unamuno or Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, have passed through the city, both in the university field as well as in that of the Arts, leaving the mark of their knowledge on this beautiful city.
Today, the city offers the same aspect as do similiar ones in the rest of the Spanish provinces, although perhaps with a more intense spiritual life due to studies which were reanimated by the founding of the Pontificia University (catholic university).
It is the university life, in all its aspects, which adds emotion and colour to its daily rhythm. Its tradition, its present atmosphere, make it apt to be considered, like Oxford and Cambridge, the Spanish university city.
Everyday life could be said to centre around the magnificent Plaza Mayor. Its archways echo with what is going on in the city.