Sunday, 13 October 2013
Convento de San Esteban, Salamanca
I saw the above picture on a Facebook page dedicated to Spanish architecture and I felt that I had to share it. The Convent of St. Stephen run by the Dominicans in Salamanca is a fantastic piece of architecture designed to show the splendour and glory of God. The area outside the church is a wonderful way to spend a warm afternoon, relaxing near this marvel. The statue is of Francisco de Vitoria, the Father of international law, who introduced the Summa Theologica to the faculty of Theology when he headed it up. A who's who of theologians of the 16th century came here to study and debate, such as Domingo de Soto, Domingo Báñez, Martín Azpilcueta, Tomás de Mercado and Francisco Suárez. A great deal of energy was spent on considering new ideas and practices of the contemporary world such as economics and international law, in particular the right of conquest and evangelisation. They combined a deep piety, profound learning and a ardent desire to analyse current issues in the light of Catholic tradition. I first came across the Salmanticenses during my reading of Father Garrigou-Lagrange in my second year of university, so I went to study in that Spanish city the next year with some excitement. I scoured the bookshops to see if I could find copies in the Castilian tongue of their works but I was to be disappointed. If you are looking for Hans Küng you would not be left wanting, yet if you wished to find something of value you would be left empty handed.
It was with some amusement and worry that I heard the response of my fellow classmates in a particular class in Salamanca. The class was about the methodology of the creation of a critical text and we came across a work by St. Vincent Ferrer, I believe it was a collection of his sermons. The lecturer was at pains to describe to the other students that Ferrer was a Dominican of Valencia, 'A Dominican, what is that?' was the reply of a few bemused students. What a great pity that students of the University of Salamanca are perplexed by Dominicans who formed the best students and teachers of the institution in the past! It highlighted to me that so many young people are completely ignorant of the past and see no value in it. That would not be so troubling if they did not attempt to form negative judgements about it.
May the beauty of this church remind us of the contributions of the men of the past who upheld the glory of God and stretched human reason to its bounds.