Façade of San Ildefonso College

San Ildefonso College is the heart and soul of the University of Alcalá. It was built between 1500 and 1515. From 1541 to 1553, the architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón replaced its primitive facade of stone and adobe to the current design, using grey granite for the plinth and golden limestone for the upper sections. Having suffered damage due to the effects of weather and aging, this project conserved the monument to prevent its further degradation, repaired any damage and restored it to its former splendour. Patina analysis determined the composition of the original 16th-century patina and of the 20th-century glazing. This helped to inform the type of glazing to be applied in the restoration.

The jury commended “the high historic value of the façade and the excellent conservation which paid special attention to preserving the historic patina”. The project was financed through the Ministry of Public Works and the University of Alcalá and was completed in 2017.

Interdisciplinary by nature, the project was drawn up after several years of documentary research and hands-on analysis and analytical research into the architectural, building, archaeological and heritage restoration issues affecting the monument.

Façade of San Ildefonso College, Alcalá de Henares, SPAIN

During the works, two sets of self-standing scaffolding were used, one for the restoration work, the other for complementary activities related to public outreach and visits. A protective tarpaulin bearing the image of the façade was also installed in order to minimise disruption to tourist routes around the city. The University Rectorate remained open and accessible at every stage of the project.

“The University of Alcalá has demonstrated great commitment to preserving the façade which maintains its place in the urban context. In addition, the process of conservation of the site had a pedagogical component and was used as a tool for interpretation, another strong aspect of this project”, the jury stated.

The façade’s historical and artistic value led to its declaration as a National Monument in 1914 and had a significant role in the designation of the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares as UNESCO World Heritage in 1998. The restoration has recovered the unique character of the University’s historic façade, whose plateresque style is typical of the European Renaissance. Its series of sculptures are perfect expressions of the ideas that gave birth to Europe and are of great artistic and symbolic value.