At the foot of the mountains, in a valley next to
the Guadarrama, not far from
Franco's monument for the (his) fallen, lies a piece of land that was
bought in 1880 by Federico Fliedner from
a Lord Mayor, who had not the slightest idea to whom it belonged, and
rejoiced at the thought to get at least the taxes back he was due for
it to the Crown.. A ‘finca’
it was, a manor, the dictionary says, or: a piece of land with buildings on
it, but that was an overstatement for this rough site with some small
houses on it, and a bunch of ruins. However, Federico found a well in the terrain, yielding
water, which was quite an asset in a time when plumbing was a mere
thought in those parts..
Seeing the vast possibilities, he bought it with much help from abroad. Great plans he had, including a botanic garden! And he was able to realize many of these plans: a school, a holiday residence for children from the big city of Madrid, the rebuilding of the old house, that the locals called ‘Castillo’ (little castle), and which dated from the 16th century or maybe even before. The emperor Philips II has between 1563 and 1584 supervised the construction of his mayor enterprise: the cloister-castle San Lorenzo del Escorial. El Escorial is the name of the township, after the heaps of slag lying about as a result of the mining days, long before, in better times. And San Lorenzo, Saint Laurence, was the Saint to whom Philips wanted to dedicate the unruly and turbulent Spain of his days. Laurence who kept unflinchingly to his faith, Even when he was martyred on a fiery hot grate. It was in the form of that grate, that the cloister, that served Philips II as a castle, when he attained a certain age, was built. As a brand, with which he wanted to brand Spain for the 'true faith'. For, incredible as it may seem now, a lot was going on in Spain at that time, as regards the Reformation. Alas! That movement was eradicated by the Inquisition, but Johann von Staupitz, the abbot, who ordered Martin Luther to reorganize things at the university of Erfurt, got his inspiration from Salamanca, from Spain!
So it was a wondrous providence that the founder of the Fliednerwerk in Spain was able to lay his hand on thís terrain, where then the Protestant minority in Spain could quench their thirst from the same source, where Philips II, the main persecutor of the Reformation, has quenched his!
piece of land, once at the border of the village (and on the main
square as well), and with a clear view on the cloister, is now totally
built in, and lost its rural aspect. And so it seems a bit shrunken.
But the possibilities, that the Protestants of this day see in it, are
by no means shrunken. Federico Fliedners offspring, his granddaughter Elfriede, and his spiritual offspring, all
united in the Fliedner Foundation, see, on the contrary, the Casa de Paz, (House of Peace as Federico called the compound), should
become a place of Reconciliation. A
place where Ecumenism can be lived and taught and learned. Ecumenism
first of all among the many variants of Protestantism that can be found
in Spain, a very multicolored garment on the Body of Christ, but a
place as well, where there can be talks between Protestants and the
Where openness and respect can go and take the place of the fear and suspicion that in former years so justified an attitude was of the Protestant minority in Spain, and where on the other hand clear information is to be found on what makes Protestantism tick, and what the basics are of their teachings. That's still in the future, just as the botanic garden, that is still in the planning, and will surely come to exist, the moment there will be found money for it.
Now there were heaps of rubble, stones, tools, to be seen every where in the garden, tokens of great activity, for people were fervently building unto a Protestant presence, that will testify to a view on the society, that is of service to the whole of it.
the afternoon of Saturday 12th of October 2002 there was the festive
inauguration - amid great public interest both from all over Spain and
abroad, from Protestants and Roman Catholics - of the project Ponce de la Fuente, as a
first tangible proof of the Protestant ability to put dreams to facts,
and be thus part of Spain's future.
Constantino Ponce de la Fuente 1502-1560 was a chaplain to the Spanish emperor, a man, held in great honor, a great philosopher and theologian, a marvelous preacher, as a contemporaneous courtier described him. But he belonged in a way as well to the Reformation, or at least to the forerunners of the Reformation in Spain, and he ended at his latter years in jail. In spite of that his works did not stop being read and used, until the highest circles. This we heard from professor José Nieto, a former pupil of the rev. Voerman, at the Seminary - the training center for clergymen - in Madrid. He had specially crossed the ocean all from America, where he is considered on of the best specialists on Spanish Church history, in order to add a special fervor to the occasion with a series of four lectures on the Church and the Sacraments, the way Constantino Ponce de la Fuente and some of his contemporaries thought about them, and about Don Quichote, and the plead for Freedom of Religion that is hidden in it. He has written some books on the matter which are highly interesting!
Before professor Nieto's lecture, there were a few (relatively) short relates by the Rev. dr. Pedro Zamora, one of the directors of the S.E.U.T., and co-instigator of the project, about which we will tell more later, by Sergio Rossell, one of the docents, by Joel Cortés, chairman of the Comisión Permanente of the Iglesia Evangélica Española, the Spanish Protestant Church. Then your new vice-chairman took the word: the Rev. Voerman, assigned to this post at the last meeting of the Board of the Foundation Het Evangelie in Spanje (The Gospel in Spain). On behalf of the Foundation he offered -with a most appreciated witty and spiritual speech- a set of books: a recent interlinear translation of the Bible, where the Spanish translation of each word is found directly under the Hebrew / Greek word. Thus even the student with less knowledge of the basic languages of the Bible, can get an inkling of the precise reading. Every translation, it is said, is a bit of betrayal to the original, or results in something that is often not easy to understand.
After rev. Voerman it was dr. Tamara Appel who talked. She represented the Diakonisches Werk der Evangeliche Kirche Deutschland, one of the big fundraisers for the project. She offered a 'attention-cloth', with deep spiritual meaning, which she explained quite clear. This cloth will certainly find a place of honor in the new building, when all the building-activities are finished.
For yes, there is still a lot of activity going on in that region, as we could see for ourselves during the excursion that followed the community prayer, music, lecture, and drinks and snacks in the garden.
only part that is more or less finished in our opinion, was the place where the conference was held,
and the small offices of Pedro Zamora and the fraternal workers Donna
and Edgar Moros. The latter introduced first Prof. Nieto, and later, as
a guide, the buildings. Indeed, a lot remains to be done, but that is
mainly a matter of finishing touches, according to Edgar Moros. We saw
the offices of the docents and personnel of the S.E.U.T., the future
temporal library, where was a small exposition of lessons, a picture
collage of what is happening now in Madrid, de books
that are being edited, et cetera. Including a table with books from the
Librería Calatrava, the
protestant bookshop, where - among many others - the most recent books
of Jose Nieto were for sale. We saw the future rooms for the
students, in the building that now is called Ponce the la Fuente, and
that is the cornerstone of whole this project that is aiming for the
future, en we were taken around the garden, Where we looked at the
spring, (see above) and the future
library of a later phase: la Chimenea(= the oven). There the glass for
the cloister was made. And obviously it was in latter days the
kitchen for the there living fraters. The building once was partly
broken down, and that is why it deemed us now very small, but that
maiming will be undone, according to future plans, so that there will
be room for a study centre, and a library, that will serve the
inhabitants of the people as well. That is for the future? Certainly.
But it sounds promising, and we have the fullest confidence that this
will come to be - with your and our help. People like dr. Zamora and
the level-headed wardens of the Fliedner Foundation, wherewith
the S.E.U.T. is in full cooperation, take care of that. We saw then the
Castillo, that is being rebuilt as a home for the Zamora-family,
and where the conference room shall be readjusted, so that this will be
fit to receive visitors from Spain and abroad. We are looking forward
Ponce de la Fuente, campus en breeding ground.
remind you: it is all about a project in two parts, the first of which
has now got a tangible beginning. This first project is named after
Constantino Ponce the la Fuente and amounts to the care, from a
Christian point of view, for a dozen students in different disciplines,
by the professors of the SEUT, the
institute for the formation of clergymen belonging tot both the oldest
Protestant Churches in Spain: IERE and IEE, so that they can study in a warm
environment, where there is attention for their spiritual needs as
well. Quite labor-intensive and lying to the hearts of the
lecturers of the S.E.U.T., that will be housed in the Casa the Paz as
we saw. The intention is to breed a Protestant set of executives, not
limited to clergymen, but people able to talk sense in all parts of
society, and able to realize a Protestant Presence of importance. It is
the meaning that the initial 12 students will grow into some 30, once
the facilities are all ready. A university campus on Protestants base.
Those 30 stem from some 20 different denominations, so that a great
step forward will be taken, together on the way to a real ecumenism.
A dream that comes true. That comes true by perseverance and obstinacy, dead against all opposition and adversity.
As mentioned: the official opening was on the 12th of October 2002, with a tremendous assistance.
The next part of the project is called:
Leon Felipe, a Dream, a Goal.