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Logotipo Salamanca Patrimonio de la Humanidad
 
City of Salamanca
History of Salamanca

Illustrious people and Famous Literary Works

• Antonio de Nebrija

Born Antonio Martínez de Cala, he is the most representative of the Spanish humanists for his invaluable work in the fields of language and linguistics. Born in Lebrija (Seville) in 1441, he studied in Salamanca (1459-1464) and completed his education in Bologna (1464-1470). In 1475 he obtained the professorship of Grammar and Rhetoric in Salamanca, the perfect place to carry out his project of restoring the teaching of Latin using classic Latinity. He renewed academia with a teaching approach based on simplicity and clarity, which in turn led to the writing of Introduction to Latin. He wrote the first grammar of a “vulgar language”: Grammar of the Spanish Language (1492). In 1499 he became one of the contributors of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible under the patronage of Cardinal Cisneros and later, the King named him his official chronicler.

Antonio de Nebrija

[Antonio de Nebrija]


 
• Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco de Vitoria was born in Burgos in around 1480. Philosopher, theologian and Dominican lawyer, he studied in Burgos and Paris. He then worked as a Professor of Theology in Paris and Valladolid and taught from 1526 until his death in Salamanca where he enjoyed the enormous respect and admiration of his students. He is considered by many to be one of the founders of International Law. He argued that the different states form part of a global community that should be governed by a “law of nations” (ius gentium), whose authority stems from the world as a whole. He expressed these thoughts in a treatise entitled Relectiones theologicae, the most renowned of which are De indis (1539, advocating equal rights for both Spaniards and Indians), De iure belli (1539, principles of the Law of War and causes of a Just War). His ideas were far ahead of their time but under constant pressure, Carlos V prohibited his teachings. He died in 1546 in Salamanca.

Francisco de Vitoria

[Francisco de Vitoria]


 
• La Celestina

The Tragic Comedy of Calisto and Melibea - (its definitive title taken from the expanded 1502 edition) is considered one of the greatest works of Spanish literature after Don Quixote. The powerful impression made by the main character, the old whore Celestina (former prostitute, procuress, sorceress, crafty, manipulative and very self-centred, the true catalyst of the unfortunate fate awaiting the other characters of the drama), gave the work its name, La Celestina. It became so popular that the legend of Celestina needed a home, as the narrative did not specify an actual location where the story took place. Given that the author, graduate in law Fernando de Rojas, wrote it while a student in Salamanca, it seemed natural that the story should take place there. Take for example the cavern where Celestina cast her spells, on the knoll that is now called Peña Celestina. Or the kitchen garden, where many of the lovers’ torrid episodes took place, that is popularly known, once it had been established that Celestina was in fact from Salamanca, as Huerto de Calixto y Melibea.

The book of La Celestina

[The book of La Celestina]


 
• Santa Teresa de Jesús

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun, was born in Gotarrendura (Avila) in 1515. From a wealthy family, she received little formal education, but this was made up for by her curious and active mind. Two books, The Book of my Life (1588) and Book of the Foundations (1610), and a prolific collection of letters recount the vicissitudes of her life. In 1562 she founded her first Barefoot Carmelite convent and began work on one of her most representative works: The Way to Perfection (1562-1564). She also published The Inner Castle, her most ambitious and elaborate work. Her success as a writer came from her “oral” style, rich in metaphor and common expressions that clearly conveyed her doctrine and her experiences. Canonized (1622) and Doctor of the Church (1970), she founded one of her convents (the seventh of her 17 in total) in Salamanca, where she lived between 1569-1570 (in the house of Los Ovalle) and whose University named her doctor honoris causa in 1922. She died suddenly in 1582 in Alba de Tormes in the province of Salamanca, a place she was very fond of.

Santa Teresa de Jess

[Santa Teresa de Jesús]


 
• Fray Luis de León

Fray Luis was born in Belmonte (Cuenca), in 1527. Humanist and writer who joined the Augustinian order in 1544, he is respected above all for his poetry in Castilian, inspired by the classics, namely the renaissance themes, style and metre. His most celebrated works are: The Names of Christ and The Perfect Wife. With a degree in Theology from Salamanca (1560), an honest and humble man, but with a spirited and rebellious nature, he was actively involved in disputes between the Augustinian and Dominican orders and was accused of criticizing the Vulgata and for translating the Song of Songs (meticulous philologist, his linguistic training led him to do an in-depth study of the source of the texts and to evaluate their original meanings, something altogether quite dangerous at that time). The Spanish Inquisition imprisoned him in Valladolid (1572-1576). He was later exonerated and returned to his teaching position, at which point he pronounced his famous words - “As we were saying yesterday…

Fray Luis de Len

[Fray Luis de León]


 
• San Juan De La Cruz

During his years as a student in Salamanca, he lived in the now long destroyed Carmelite convent located in Arroyo de Santo Domingo. Born Juan de Yepes, he grew up in Medina del Campo. He joined the Carmelite Order in 1663, studied at a Jesuit school, and later, at the University of Salamanca (1564-1568). His most enduring works consist of three poems, written in lyre format, that were publish after his death: Dark Night of the Soul (1618), Spiritual Canticle (1627) and Living Flame of Love (1618), with their respective commentaries, that present a reasoned and doctrinal version of his own experiences. p>

San Juan De La Cruz

[San Juan De La Cruz]


 
• Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcala in 1547 and died in Madrid in 1616. He created the mythical literary figure Don Quixote (1605, 1615) that was the precursor of the modern novel. Certain researchers believe that he studied in Salamanca from 1567 to 1568. It cannot be denied that Cervantes, to whom Salamanca owes at least part of its reputation, had close literary ties with our city. In effect, one of his Exemplary Novels, The Glass Lawyer - perfectly captures the Salamancan student life at that time, and his short farce The Salamanca Cave, picked up on the medieval theme of necromancy and helped to spread the legend of the city as a centre of teaching of the occult.

Miguel de Cervantes

[Miguel de Cervantes]


 
• Lazarillo de Tormes

Lazaro de Tormes is, together with Celestina, Don Quixote and Don Juan, one of the most acknowledged characters of Spanish literature. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, His Fortunes and His Adversities (1554) marks the birth of a new literary genre, the picaresque novel that enjoyed a huge success both inside and outside Spain and whose influence on the European novel was felt right up until the 18th Century.
The anonymous author, who obviously new Salamanca well, sets the story on the banks of the river Tormes in the hamlet of Tejares, nowadays a district of the city, and makes Lazaro’s departure from the hamlet represent the rather brutal start to his life, making use of the prominent Salamanca symbol, the Celtic-Iberian bull that can be found on the city’s coat of arms.

Statue of Lazarillo de Tormes

[Statue of Lazarillo de Tormes]


 
• Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Born and died in Madrid (1600-1681), Calderón de la Barca is the foremost Spanish baroque playwright and the most popular of his time. He came to the forefront in 1623, and went from open-air theatre to taking charge of the Royal Theatre after the death of Lope de Vega (1635). Knight of the Order of Santiago, he was ordained (1651) and was then appointed chaplain to the King (1663). Honour (The Mayor of Zalamea, 1640), royal authority and religion were the main subjects of his works. He also wrote philosophical works (Life is a Dream 1635), historical dramas (The Schism of England), mythological comedies (The Statue of Prometheus, 1670) and intrigue (The Phantom Lady, 1629; Casa con dos puertas, mala es de guardar – House with two Doors, Difficult to Guard).

Pedro Caldern de la Barca

[Pedro Calderón de la Barca]


 
• Diego de Torres Villarroel

Born in Salamanca (1693), he is one of the most striking and groundbreaking figures of 18th Century in Spain, and his narrative is one of the most outstanding of the period. His Almanac and Annual Predictions, published each year between 1721 and 1770, made him incredibly popular, not only in Salamanca, but throughout Spain. His work consisted for the most part of astrological predictions (some of which came true, such as the death of Louis I, the Esquilache Uprising and the French Revolution). He spent the latter years of his life in Salamanca and died in 1770 in the Palacio de Monterrey.

Diego de Torres Villarroel

[Diego de Torres Villarroel]


 
• Juan Meléndez Valdés

Originally from Extremadura, despite his typically Asturian surname (Ribera del Fresno, in the province of Badajoz, in 1754), Juan Meléndez Valdés was one of the greatest Spanish poets of the 18th Century. He studied Law and Humanities in Salamanca, where he graduated (1782) and was then awarded his doctorate (1783). During these years he participated in poem meetings (las “sabatinas”) that were the precursor to the Salamanca School of Poetry, of which he was probably the most prominent member.

Juan Melndez Valds

[Juan Meléndez Valdés]


 
• José de Espronceda

Born in Almendralejo (Badajoz) in 1808, Espronceda is, together with Larra, the foremost Spanish romanticist. His early liberal militancy led to him be exiled to Guadalajara (1824). After the death of Fernando VII (1833), he returned to Madrid and became a member of the Romantic Movement. He was author of a long and very ambitious poem, The Student of Salamanca – that dealt with the theme of Don Juan. The main character, Félix de Montemar, embodies romantic rebelliousness: archetype of the bon vivant and quarrelsome student, he is a cruel, ungodly and murderous being, who, amidst the nightlife of Salamanca, stereotypical and gloomy, witnesses his own funeral, marries the skeleton of Elvira, who died after he abandoned her, and then dies himself without repentance.

Jos de Espronceda

[José de Espronceda]


 
• Miguel de Unamuno

Writer and philosopher born in Bilbao in 1864. Essayist with a very personal style (About Traditionalism, 1895), excellent novelist (Mist, 1914), accomplished poet (The Christ of Velasquez, 1920), playwright (The Other, 1927), his huge intellectual presence, along with that of Ortega, was prominent during the first third of the 20th Century in Spain. He was a professor (1891) and rector (1901-1914, 1934-1936) of the University of Salamanca, a city with which he always maintained a very close relationship and was a very active progressive city councilor (1917-1920). He believed that life and writing were inextricably linked. Due to his opposition of dictator Primo de Rivera, he was exiled (1924 - 1930) to Fuerteventura. He died in Salamanca on December 31st 1936, a particularly tragic time in Spanish history.

Miguel de Unamuno

[Miguel de Unamuno]


 
• Gonzalo Torrente Ballester

Born in Ferrol in 1910, this is one of the greatest Spanish writers of the 20th Century. He began writing realistic narrative, all the way up until his famous trilogy The Joys and the Shadows (1957-1962). The next stage of his literary career found him using narrative experimentation, from Don Juan (1963) to The Saga/Flight of J.B.. (1972), significant title of the contemporary novel that was the first book of his fantastic trilogy (Fragments of the Apocalypse, 1977, and The Island of the Clipped Hyacinths, 1980), where magic, humour and irony are blend together with reality. In the latter part of his life, he began to gain recognition and was awarded prizes: National Prize for Literature (1981), the Prince of Asturias Award (1982), the Cervantes Prize (1985) and many more. Professor of Literature until his retirement in 1980, named member of the Royal Spanish Academy in 1975, he lived in Salamanca until his death (1999), where he was a loved and respected figure.

Gonzalo Torrente Ballester

[Gonzalo Torrente Ballester]


 
• Carmen Martín Gaite

Born in Salamanca (1925), prior to leaving for university, she lived in the city’s Plaza de los Bandos, in a house that has since disappeared. She made reference to it in her first novel, Between Net Curtains. Nowadays there is a bust in the square to commemorate her life.
Intimist and introspective in tone, she managed to capture the desires and traumas of the Spanish people for half a century. Her narrative dealt with the question of affective human insertion of an individual into a collective, as her work entitled The Back Room, 1978 illustrates. Amongst other prizes, she was received the National Literature Award, the Prince of Asturias Award (1988), and the National Writers Award (1994). While in Madrid she was part of a large group of writers from the 1950s. She died there in 2000.

Carmen Martn Gaite

[Carmen Martín Gaite]