The Royal English College, Valladolid
It was also good to spend some time with H.E. the Cardinal, his auxiliary Bishop Alan and twenty of our junior priests - the priestly fraternity reaching a high point during the 'gala' meal hosted by the College on Wednesday night.
Let me tell you a bit about the amazing English College at Valladolid.
Its existence today is something of a historical accident. During 'penal times' English seminaries were established all over Catholic Europe, including the Iberian peninsula - at Lisbon, Madrid, Seville and Valladolid. The College at Valladolid was founded by the great English Jesuit, Robert Persons, in 1589.
The foundation was approved by Clement VIII in 1592, who empowered the College to grant degrees in Arts and Philosophy equivalent to Oxford and Cambridge (which, as far as the Pope was concerned, had lost such rights at the Reformation). The establishment was fully supported by the King of Spain from the first moment - and the Rector is still a royal appointment and a member of the royal household.
The first group of students included two future martyrs: Blessed Robert Drury and Blessed Roger Filcock. All in all, twenty-seven former students are recognised by the Church as martyrs. The corridors of the College are lined with paintings of these brave men - in fact, these comprise the largest single collection of portraits of the English martyrs, mostly dating from the early-to-mid seventeenth century. The College is an amazing treasure trove of our heritage (English, Catholic and otherwise) - its pigskin library is meant to be included in the Top Twenty worldwide (first editions of Shakespeare, etc).
The College is no longer a major seminary as such but organises a propadeutic year - i.e. a preliminary year for priestly aspirants before they start the seminary course proper. However, the proud traditions continue. One of my favourite Vallisoletan stories concerns the College football team of 1907:
They played against mighty Real Madrid (or Madrid F.C., as it was then called) on 28 April 1907. The score was as follows:
Royal English College 6 Real Madrid 2
Not bad considering Real Madrid were Champions of Spain that year!
More on the College (especially Our Lady Vulnerata) to follow...