In 1770, a rich spring reservoir was discovered one kilometer east of the village of Holsbybrunn in southern Sweden. It was called “Holsby Brunn” or Holsby Well. From 1797, Holsbybrunn residents had official permission to drink this water without cost. A small cabin, wood bathtub and heating pot comprised a new “health spa.”
Holsby officially began as a health spa in 1802, and by 1834 a wood pipe was bringing water to the buildings at the center. A unique gazebo was built over the well. By 1852, the spa was well established and had many new facilities, including a dining room, guesthouses, horse stable and staff housing. Due to the high concentration of iron in the well water, guests were encouraged to drink through a straw to protect their teeth.
The spa provided more than spring water and rest. Recreation also included walking trails and music in the main lounge. Bands from nearby military bases provided occasional entertainment. A resident chaplain and doctor rounded out the spiritual and physical attention given to the guests.
Development of the spa continued between 1883 and 1920. Six new buildings, 23 rooms, a restaurant and new bathhouse were built. Old buildings, especially those damaged by fire, were replaced.
A newspaper from the nearby city of Jönköping printed an article about the spa in 1911, citing the yearly religious meetings held at Holsby: “…Holsby is not only a place to find rest and quiet, but a place where one can hear the word of God.”
During World War II, many refugees from around the Baltic Sea began making their way to Sweden, and Holsbybrunn became a “city of refuge.” The rights and safety of the refugees were closely guarded by the community. Toward the end of the war, many Norwegian and Jewish refugees sought shelter in Holsbybrunn. Many were exhausted when they arrived. A Jewish rabbi from Stockholm came to minister to the orthodox Jews, and a temporary synagogue was located in the coffee house.
When the war ended, the spa became a year-round hotel, but by 1971 then-owner Hans Hanson considered closing Holsby. A former missionary and former chaplain at Holsby, Karl Frandell, heard of the possibility of the closure. Mr. Frandell was in contact with Major Ian Thomas, the founder of Torchbearers International, and was aware of his interest in starting a Bible school in Scandinavia.
Torchbearers International purchased the facility and the school opened its doors in 1973. Since then, Holsby has been actively involved in the surrounding communities and has become a cherished place for several generations of students, guests and staff.