The province of Avila, the fields
and sierras of Castile, lie against the huge mountain chain
of the Gredos Sierra in
the east of the province of Madrid. It has a surface area of
Gredos has a decisive bearing on the province
and forms three valleys of fertile lands, three worlds with
different sceneries: the valley of the Tormes, the one of
the Alberche on the northern side and the one of the Tiétar
in the lovely sun-trap area of the south. Lush vegetation
grows on the slope; over the forest of pine, oak and holm
bare, rugged peaks.
The fierce mountain scenery gives way
to milder pictures on the way north until the plains are
reached, the geological ruins at Madrigal and Arévalo.
The villages at the foot of the rock walls, in the shadow of
or along the banks of the rivers or the all-engulfing solitude
of the plain, are the essence of the spirit of Castile,
as they were on great heights to stand over barren land
or watch a far-ranging horizon.
Its history, always connected
with heroic deeds and military feats, is also a witness
its deep religious feelings and its mystic tendencies:
Santa Teresa de Jesús and San Juan da la Cruz, the two
great saints of Avila, helped to shape the customs, traditions,
feelings and evotions everywhere in the lands, the twons
Romanesque churches are found in all parts of
province in the company of still powerful-looking, challenging
castles in ruins. In view of it's past and scenery, Avila
is an inexhaustible source for the historian and the
traveller, be he a mountaineer or a hunting or fishing sportsman.
It is surrounded by walls and built on a hill on the banks
of the Adaja, a river whose source is in the mountain area
and which flows into the Duero. It has around 38,200 inhabitants
and the distinction of being the highest city in Spain (1.127
meters). A short distance away on the Salamanca road is the
obeservation platform called "Los Cuatro Postes",
which offers the Best view of Avila. Its historical origins
are Celtiberian, numerous sculptures depiciting bulls and pigs
provide evidence of an old Iberian civilisation. Los Toros
de Guisando are the most representative example of this art.
Christianity was first brought to Avila in the first century
with the arrival of Bishop San Segundo. After the recoquest
in the year 1085 by the king of Castile, Alfonso Vi, Avila
was repopulated with Christian knights who, at the end of the
11th century began workon the impressive wall by order of Raimundo
de Gorgoña. It was the residence of various kings of
Castile, and the seat of several courts. Within its walls a
worldfamous Spaniard, Santa Teresa de Jesús, was born,
the reformer of El Carmelo, whose spirit has pervaded the city
since the 16th century.
Avila is the Best preserved walled city in the world. Its
walls, which form an impressive monument, are rectangular in
shape, with a perimeter of about two and a half ikometers,
some two meters hgiht and three broad. The walls are reinforced
by stout turrets at intervals of roughly twenty'five meters,
ninety of them altogether, and the most important of them all
is the one called "Cimorro" or Cathedral apse. It
has nine gates, each of them open between strong turrets, among
which the most outstandingly monumental are the ones called
the gates of San Vicente and the Alcázar.
The Cathedral, Romanesque and Gothic, is both a church and
a fortress built into the city/s defensive enclosure. To the
original fabric, which was begunin the early 12th century in
Romanesque style, other parts and chapels in the Renaissnce
style were subsequently added. The apse forms part of the wall
with machicolations and bettlements. The main facsade has two
15th'c Gothic towrs, one of them unfinished, the work of the
architect Juan Guas, although it was later renovated in the
The inside consists of three covered nave with Gothic vaults,
a transept and double ambulatory around the chancel. Here there
is a large reredos painted by Pedro de Berruguete, Juan de
Borgoñay Santa Cruz, showing scenes from th life of
Jesus. The whole of the choir stalls is in the Renaissance
style, as is the master work of Vasco de la Zarza, who made
the tobe of Bishop Don alonso de Madrigal "El Tostado" sculpted
in alaBester in the 16th century.
In the Cathedral Museum one can find outstanding sculptures
and artistic works, as well as interesting and valuable pieces
in precious metal. Among them is a monstranc,e of exceptional
quality, made by Juan de Arfe and other paintings, sculputres
and works of embrodiery from between the 12th and 18th centuries,
which make up a highly valuable artistic collection.
Palaces, Churches and Convents
Aristic architecture in Avila, whether of a lay or religious
nature, seems inexhausible. the Palacio de Polentions, with
its rich Platersque fasade; the Mansión de los Deanes,
in the Renaissance style,and that of the Dávila, all
embellished with magnificent patios are justly famous, as is
the house of the Guzmanes, with the most beautiful turret in
The Church of San Pedro is one of the finest examples of the
Romanesque sytle, the evolution of which culminates in the
Basilica of San Vicente, a monument which is representative
of he transition to he Gothic, between the 12th and 14th centuries.
The Virgin of la Soterraña is venerated in the crypt.
Located outside the walls, are the Churches of San Nicolás,
San Andrés and San Segundo, all Romanesque. Also outside
the walled area, a visit can be paid to the Royal Monastery
of santo Tomás in Late Gothic founded by the Catholic
King and Queen. Inside we find the alabaster tomb of Prince
Don Juan, a work by Fancelli; the reredos on the hgih altar
is a work by Pedro de Berruguete.
Avila of Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is everywhere in Avila, for example, in the convent
devoted to her, constructed on the site of the parents/ home;
in the convent of Nuestra Señora de Gracia where she
began her education, and in the Monastery of la Encarnación,
where one can visit several dwellings whose decoration is reminiscent
of the period in which she lived in them. Another monatery
directly linked to Teresa de Jesús is that of San José,
known as "las Madres", her first foundation.
Las Navas del Marques, Cebreros, El Tiemblo, La Adrada
The area of Las Navas del Marqés has extensive pine
groves and is a frequently'visited summer resort with such
notable buildings as the castle, and the Gothic 15th-century
Situated in the Alberche river valley and very close to the
burguillo reservoir is the historical village of El Tiemblo,
with a 16th-century chruch and Cebreros, well known for its
high alcohol content wines. On the outskirts is the Toros de
Guisando meadow, with its interesting pre-Roman sculptures.
in the whole region thee are plenty of pictuesque mountain
villages, stiutated in the fertile Tiétar Valley, where
the rural architecture is intace, and there ae also places
for summer relazation. One can quote as the most typical examples
of these, la Adrada, Piedralaves and Pedro Bernardo.
Mombeltran, Arenas de San Pedro, Candeleda, El Barco de Avila,
All of these small towns and villages of Avila blend historical
and artistic reference with the variety of their many different
landscapes dominated by the majestic mountain massif of the
Sierra de Gredos. Its high peaks, almost permanently snow-covered,
reach their highest point in the Pico de Almanzor, 2,592 meters
high, which provides considerable opportunities for skiing.
The legendary town of Mombeltrán preserves the 14th-c
castle of the Duques de Albuquerque, one of the most beautiful
and typical castle. Somewhat farther on is Arenas de San pedro,
regarded as a centre and starting point for pleasant excusions,among
them that to La Cueva del Aguila (The Eagle' Cave). Candeleda
is a spot notable for its markedly picturesque nature, while
tradition has it that El Barco de Avila owes its name to the
boat that was used to cross the River Tomes. Finally, Piedrahita
boasts a lovely Gothic church and ruins of a palace.
Arevalo, Madrigal de las Altas Torres
In contrast to the villages scattered on the high mountains,
thee are robust cities which, like Arécvalo, are situated
in the lowlands of the province. Interested by two rivers it
preserves old walls and a Mudéjar castle. Of the same
style is the Church of San martín, in the Plaza (square)
de la Villa, which is notable for its typical arcades.
Madrigal de las Altas Torres, birthplace of Isabel la Católica,
is an historic village with many Mudéhar-style remains.
The Real Monasterio (Royal Monastery) de las Agustinas, the
Church of San Nicolás and the 15th-century Ral Hospital
(Royal Hospital) ae preserved.
All the fiestas that take place in Avila have a religious
connotation. The most important one which takes place in the
captial from October 8th to 15th is in honour of Santa Teresa.
Open-air dances, competitions and street entertainmens are
organised and these are highly popular. The simplicity and
profound religous nature of Holy Week in Avila is proverbial
and dates back a long time.
Throughout the summer fiestas are held and public festivities
organised in Avila and the province's most important villages.
There are a large numver of pilgrimages and the bullfighting
motif plays a large part in the fairs, like those of Arécalo,
the first Sunday in July, with a typical encierro (corralling
of the bulls) and the bullfight.
On the second Sundy of September Candeleda celebrates the
festive-religious excursion or "Romeriá" of "La
Virgen de Chilla", a celebration officially considered
of Interest to Tourists. The participants called "romeros",
dressed in popular costumes, visit the shirine of the Virgin
on the slopes of the Gredos Mountains.
Cuisine in Avila
Gastronomy in Avila is plain and simple; the basis of its
quality is to be foundin the quality of its ingredients. Its
roasts are famous, particularly in the capital of Avila and
Arévalo, as well as suckling pig throughout the province,
veal in Piedrahita and trout from the river
Tormes. As far as confectionery is concerned mention should
be made of: Yemas de Santa Eresa, huesillos fritos and las
glorias de Avila, Cebreros wine is well known for its pleasant
taste and high alcohol content.
There are two paradores in the province of Avila.
In the capital there is the three-star Parador Raimundo de
Borgoña, and in the Sierra de Gredos (Navarredonda),
the Parador de Gredos, which is also three-star one and the
oldest Paradores in Spain.
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