Colegio de Fonseca can be considered the cradle of the University of Santiago de Compostela, since it was founded in 1522 by Archbishop Alonso Fonseca the Third for the teaching of Arts, Theology, Civil Law and Canonical Law. The building is made in the Renaissance style, while its altarpiece-like façade features Our Lady of Pleasures and the school’s saint, James Alphaeus.
Inside Fonseca, you can visit the Sala de Grados (Graduation Hall), with its wonderful Mudéjar-style coffered ceiling, which is now used to house exhibitions. Next to it, dominated by a statue of the school’s founding archbishop sitting down, is one of the most beautiful cloisters in Compostela, which leads to the valuable University Library, with more than 300 thousand volumes and 150 incunabula.
To the right side of the façade, around the corner, we can see a depiction of the so-called Tree of Science, which is related to a curious tradition. Newly arrived first-year students, still uncertain about what to study, would stand with their back to this plaque and chose their academic future by putting their hand over their shoulder, randomly pointing to a branch with the name of a degree written on it.
This building housed the Seminary of Galician Studies, whose members wrote the first draft of the Galician Autonomy Statute. During a good part of the eighties, after it was constituted in the neighbouring Pazo de Gelmírez, this historical building was also the seat of the present-day Galician Parliament.