European Renaissance. We Go Back to Yuste

Susana del Río Villar

I am preparing my trip to Yuste. We are going to celebrate the ceremony of the Carlos V European Award. Although we cannot be there this year, our European Union makes it possible for us to meet again. Come on. Our King will already have his Spanish and European address with phrases extolling the 2020 award winner. Felipe VI also has words of encouragement for everyone.

The Royal Monastery of Yuste is being embellished. The staff of the European and Ibero-American Academy of Yuste Foundation works hard to make magic possible. This year Europe Day coincides with the Covid-19 pandemic. The 9th of May is different because we cannot get excited in the basilica, everyone in our chairs, where our names are written and, in our hands, the program of the event.
I am fortunate to have been able to attend the Award ceremony for many years now. The trip to Yuste already keeps me awake and dreaming several days before arriving in the region of La Vera. Both on Europe Day and in the European summer courses, going up to the Monastery becomes a journey full of history, landscape, and emotion. Illusion as well.

When we board buses to the Monastery from the Parador Hotel of Jarandilla, the air is always impregnated with what being European means. When the great sculpture of the emperor on the way up greets us, I get the feeling that we are already there. I go back and return to the past and present of the history of Spain and the history of Europe. It is a return to the future of Europe. Charles I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire. Well, well. We make it happen. And we are here. Charles V probably knows. Sure he does.

It is then that we see the Monastery greeting us from a grassy terrace. Simple but grandiose. Built between 1408 and the 16th century. I never speak at that moment. Everything stops. I like to watch, to concentrate on every detail. The trees, the stone wall, the ivy. The cross of the church, its bells on the tower surrounded by some white clouds that dot the blue sky. One can breathe happiness.

Getting off the bus requires measuring every cobblestone that us women walk on with high heels. One must dress up for such a special occasion. When I manage to walk straight and secure towards the entrance, I always look for my friend Miguel Ángel Martín. Proudly, I spot the Director of the Foundation, Juan Carlos Moreno, straight away. I greet them quickly, they are very busy, smiling, with gratitude. And we walk through the door. The wooden door is not big, all it keeps is. I step inside. I can turn left or walk straight towards the residence of Charles V, the ramp that leads to the terrace with arches, where we guest teachers, teach the Summer Courses. Seeing the mosaic of Charles V, the two viewpoints from the bedroom and the courtroom of the emperor that overlook the orchard, heading to greet the team of the Foundation. I see Nuria and the whole team: we are here again.

The pond is full. I remember the summer they were fixing it. Speakers standing and excavators passing behind. I told the students: look closely, we are lucky to see it empty. We are witnessing how the pond is repaired. We are living a historical event. When we finished classes, many took pictures before the empty pond. I keep them.

As I remember everything and History comes and goes, we are called. We must enter the basilica. The King is coming. We look for our seats. The choir sings. We admire the apse. The Carlos V European Award maroon fabric. The church and the Gothic cloister, the other cloister is the one they call new, they belong to the fifteenth century; the rest of the constructions are from the sixteenth century. Renaissance.

In 2007, the Monastery was declared European Heritage. Spain and the European Union, the EU and Spain. Charles I of Spain and V of Germany. His son Philip II has also been here visiting his father. Two monasteries, Yuste and El Escorial. I travel a few seconds to El Escorial and I see the facade and the nature that also surrounds the Monastery. The chosen enclave. Every stone. All the stones put together by persons united in a zeal have made the construction possible.

Felipe VI arrives. That moment, the King arriving, is always unique. We all stand up to receive him. Even now, as I write, my eyes are filled with tears. It is the truth.

This year’s addresses focus even more on what the European Union is and on the value of its integration model. On the necessary strength of the EU. On moving forward together to defeat Covid-19. The EU always makes sense and, now, more than ever. We must find the strength we need today in the meaning of Europe.

The King conveys a message of responsibility, of union, of joint work, of illusion. Of hope. Of Union in union. He says: Long live Europe. And he looks at us all with affection. It is a solemn moment. We applaud.

We are all there. We have travelled with our European identity and imagination. We are in Yuste. This year it is a true spring day. A spring that has been waiting for us. The sun illuminates everything and nuances the colours by putting warm tones to a living canvas. This 2020 the Carlos V European Award is for all citizens of Europe and the world.

Susana del Río Villar

(Member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Director of the group of experts Convention on the future of Europe)