If you’ve been following my blog (and why wouldn’t you be?), you know by now that last month my family and I traveled to Spain for a nine-day vacation. Our first stop was the cosmopolitan city of Madrid (check out the photographs HERE) where we stood for our first two days (and visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum). Our next stop on our way to Extremadura was a 90 minute drive to Ávila, a Spanish town located in the autonomous community of Castile and León.
This ‘City of Saints and Stones’ is the birthplace of Saint Teresa of Ávila (a 16th century prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author and the female patron saint of Spain – more on her later) and burial place of the Grand Inquisitor, Tomás de Torquemada (whose name has become synonymous with the Christian Inquisition’s horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism in the 13th century).
The symbol of the city is the wall, one of the best preserved walled sites in Europe. Its perimeter is two kilometres and a half, with about 2,500 battlements, 100 towers, 6 doors and 3 secondary entrances. Ávila’s long history begins with the old Celtiberian settlement of the Vettones (a pre-Roman people of the Iberian Peninsula of possibly Celtic ethnicity) around the year 700 BC. When the Romans arrived in the 3rd century BC, the first wall was built and Ávila became an important defensive location. After several centuries of decadence, the city was repopulated and rebuilt in the 11th century. For all these reasons, the entire Old Town of Ávila has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Before we entered the medieval city, however, we stopped off at Los Cuatro Postes (The Four Posts), a little shrine 1.5km outside the walled city of Ávila. A cross covered by a four-posted canopy marks the spot where seven year old Teresa of Ávila and her brother Rodrigo were caught by their uncle when they were on their way to the south to spread the word of God to the Moors, not concerned by the fact that they might be killed in the attempt since that would turn them into martyrs. The sight offers a spectacular view of the walled city as you can see…
In the distance, behold! The walled city of Ávila!
After our time at Los Cuatro Postes, we spent a bit more time than I’d care to admit just trying to figure out where to park and how to get into the city. As we drove around the perimeter of the wall, I stuck a GoPro camera on the side of our car and shot some video to illustrate just how magnificent it is, especially at first sight:
We finally realized you can actually drive right into the city and park. Then it was a matter of finding an entrance to get up to the wall (it’s possible to walk upon the walls themselves for roughly half their circumference). Once we found an entrance up, we were there. And it was an absolutely gorgeous day…
Our trip to the walled city of Ávila was a memorable one. I mean, it was almost unreal gazing upon that wall. Alas, we ended up with less time than we thought and some of Ávila’s other sites like the Ávila Cathedral, which was commissioned by Alfonso VIII in 1172 and is considered as the first Gothic cathedral in Spain. There’s also the Basilica of San Vicente, which stands on the traditional site of the martyrdom of St. Vincent at the hands of the Romans and dates back to the 12th century. We did see the main thing and that by itself was pretty awesome.
Visit avilaturismo.com to learn more (or plan your visit) to this magnificent medieval city. Our journey (and photographs) to the Extremadura region of Spain will continue in future posts so why not subscribe so that you won’t miss a thing? You won’t be sorry. Promise.