Alcalá de Henares, Spain – March 19, 2010
On a whim today, we decided to drive to the small town of Alcalá de Henares. It is a quaint little town that boasts the home of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. In addition, it is also the home of Parroquia San Pedro Apóstol (Saint Peter the Apostle Parrish), which was once the home to miraculous Eucharistic hosts.
As the story goes, in the late 1500s, a thief stole some two-dozen consecrated hosts and other valuable items from a church in Alcalá de Henares. The thief later confessed his sins. After the thief’s confession, the priest asked him to return the hosts to him in a silver box. The thief did as requested. After more than a decade, the hosts were still in perfect condition even though other, non-consecrated hosts had decomposed. In 1619, the Catholic Church officially declared the consecrated hosts were a miracle. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939), some priests hid the hosts before the church was burned. The hosts have not since been seen.
Part of our decision to drive to Alcalá de Henares today was to see the church where the miraculous consecrated hosts had been kept for a time. However, after parking, one of the first sights that greeted us was the façade of the University of Alcalá. The university dates from 1496, the brainchild of Cardinal Cisneros. The design of the façade of the main University building is quite striking to see.
Since the author, Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares, one can see a statue of him in the main square. In addition, at the edge of the Barrio Judío (Jewish Quarter), the house in which Cervantes was born is now a museum. It is easy to spot. In front of the house is a bench with bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The Parroquia San Pedro Apóstol is impressive. It dates from roughly the same time as the founding of the university. Although, I must say this church is much brighter on the interior than many we have seen in Europe.
It was a fairly rainy day; however, we still had fun. In places, it was beautiful because the almond trees were beginning to bloom.
Alcalá de Henares is a UNESCO World Heritage site.