On this day May 20, 1293

Sancho IV, King of Castile and León, established the Studium Generale what is now the Complutense University of Madrid, today one of the top public universities in Spain.

Sancho IV

In 1499, Pope Alexander VI granted the request of one of its former pupils, Cardinal Cisneros, to convert it into a full university; the Papal Bull renamed the institution Universitas Complutensis.

In the 1509-1510 school year, the Complutense University operated with five faculties: Arts and Philosophy, Theology, Canon Law, Philology and Medicine.

The University flourished in the 16th century, especially under the early benefaction of Cisneros who, as Archbishop of Toledo, was able to endow it richly.

Cisneros attracted many of the world’s foremost linguists and biblical scholars to Alcalá to produce the magnum opus of the University, the Biblia Políglota Complutense or Complutensian Polyglot Bible, printed in five massive volumes (including a popular glossary volume) complete in 1517, but delayed publication by Papal order until 1520 (distribution probably later in 1522).

The edition was one of the great works of philology of the Renaissance, comprising critical editions of all of the books of the Bible in their original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as the authorized Latin Vulgate text.

Cisneros borrowed or acquired most of the known Biblical manuscripts of his day for the project. The complexity of the typography alone ranks it among the greatest achievements of Spanish scholarship. Owing to unfortunate mishaps, most copies of the edition have not survived, but this singular achievement launched the Complutense into the company of the greatest universities of the world.

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