The University of Santiago de Compostela celebrated its fifth centennial at the end of the last century. That is the age of its oldest precursor, the Old Study or the Grammar Study founded by Lope de Marzoa in 1495, with the support of the city’s Benedictine monasteries. The need to train future Church members and civil servants gave rise, at the beginning of the 16th century, to the present University of Santiago, which was originally housed in Colegio de Santiago Alfeo, founded by Archbishop Fonseca.
However, when Compostela residents talk about “the University,”, they almost always refer to the building where the Faculty of Geography and History is located. It is a solid neoclassical construction to which an extra floor was added during the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was decided to replace the figure of Minerva on top with statues of the university’s founders.
The university’s teaching and research facilities now cover an area of one million three hundred thousand square metres, divided between Santiago and Lugo. Its almost thirty thousand students come from all over Spain and other countries, with around two thousand lecturers and researchers and about one thousand employees at their service. Throughout the year, it is possible to contact the university in order to enjoy a wide range of guided tours around its rich artistic-historical heritage.
Next to this building we have the 17th-century University Church. It belonged to the Jesuits until their expulsion in 1767, when the statues in the façade, depicting St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, were replaced by those of St. Peter and St. Paul. The interior houses rich altarpieces and interesting university exhibitions.
As a curiosity, it is worth noting that the Mazarelos Arch, at the right end of this square, is the only remaining gate from the former medieval wall. The old 11th-century fortification, which was 2-km long, was demolished in the 19th century since it no longer served its original defensive purpose. Its seven main gates, which controlled the access of people and goods, only remain in the city’s place names. This arch is the exception, since it was private property and thus could not be destroyed. It serves as a reminder of the times when grains and Ribeiro wines entered the city here.