Ávila with the Monsignor

Ávila with the Monsignor

Ávila, Spain – September 12, 2010

The Monsignor and I arrived in Ávila at about 10:15. We stopped by the tourist information office and picked up our obligatory maps of Ávila. Many parts of the city date from the late 1000s to the mid-1100s.

An odd opening along the roadside on the way to Ávila.
The Puerta del Alcazar (Fortress Gate).
A sculpture outside the gate.
Panorama of the sculptures.
Detail of one of the sculptures.
Detail of one of the sculptures.
The view north along Calle de San Segundo. The street hugs the ancient wall of Ávila.
A coat of arms above the Puerta del Alcazar.
Looking up at the Puerta del Alcazar.
A sculpture commemorating the Holy Week of June 25, 1999.

We walked around the exterior of the Cathedral of Ávila took some photos.  At about 10:40 we went inside the main chapel of the cathedral and attended 11:00 mass. This was the second mass I have attended at this cathedral. For me, the beautiful high alter makes it rather difficult to concentrate on the mass. The high altar must be some 40 feet tall. It is built of ornately carved wood and then apparently overlaid with gold leaf.  This work frames some 24 paintings depicting various scenes from the life of Jesus, the Evangelists, and the Apostles.  I was in awe.

A stone lion near the Ávila Cathedral.
Mail slots at a post office in Ávila.
A poster advertising a recent bullfight.

After mass, I took the Monsignor into the sacristy to meet the Spanish priest that had just said mass, even though there was a sign at the entrance that said: “do not enter”. The Monsignor introduced himself and spoke to the other priest for a little while in Spanish.  That father had been a priest for 15 years.  The Monsignor told him he had been a priest for 34 years.

The Spanish priest was very nice.  The sacristy was quite ornate too.

When we were done talking to the priest, we walked around to the front of the cathedral and went in for a tour. The admission for the tour was 4€ (US$4.88) each. In a sense it is too bad we saw the cathedral in Toledo first, because nothing else holds a candle to that cathedral. There were a lot of nice things, but it was just not the same. The period of construction of the Cathedral of Ávila stretched from the 12th to the 14th centuries.

An interior courtyard of the Ávila Cathedral.

After leaving the cathedral, we walked to the Convent of Saint Teresa of Ávila. Outside the convent was a small bookstore. In a room at the back of the bookstore, there were some relics of St. Teresa; including the sole of one of her sandals and her right ring finger, complete with a ring.  That was a little odd.

Walking around the corner we came to the Museo de Santa Teresa (Saint Teresa Museum). Admission to that museum was only 2€ (US$2.44). The museum has a lot of artifacts from the life and times of Saint Teresa. I thought one exhibit was very interesting; the recreation of her room in the monastery. It was very spartan.  After we left, they locked the door behind us.  They must have been closing for lunch. We went back upstairs and into the church. A mass was in progress so we did not stay long. Neither of us really liked what little we saw of that church.

Traffic on the street at the southern wall.
The Puerta del Rastro.
The outskirts of the southern part of Ávila.
The tile artwork at the Convent of St. Teresa reads, “This is my house.”
The church at the Convent of St. Teresa.
The church at the Convent of St. Teresa as seen through the Puerta de Santa Teresa.

We went back outside, gathered our thoughts, and headed to the mansion of the Polentinos Family. We thought we might be able to tour the mansion. As it turned out, we could not. The mansion is now the General Military Archive of Avila. We were only allowed to look at the courtyard.  We could not take any photos.

From there we found our way to the church of St. John the Baptist. The church was not open; however, there was a sign on the side of the church that noted St. Teresa was baptized there on April 4, 1515.

One of the narrow streets inside the ancient walls of Ávila.

We decided it was time for lunch. We sat at an outdoor cafe on the west side of the Plaza del Mercado Chico. The lunch was marginal.  It took forever to get our server to bring us the check.  It was a good thing we were not in a hurry.

A very cold San Miguel beer.
Stopping for lunch at El portalón (The Gate) in Ávila.

We left our lunch location and headed to the entrance to the city wall. It cost 4€ per person to climb up on and walk along the wall. The wall in Ávila is purported to be the best-preserved medieval wall in all of Europe. Construction of the wall began in about 1090. The wall has some 88 turrets which aided in the defensive nature of the wall. I think one of the most striking gates into the city is the Puerta del Alcazar. It is near the sculpture of St. Teresa of Avila. A smaller gate that opens directly to the Convent of St. Teresa is the Puerta de la Santa.

We went up on the wall about midway on the east side. We walked along the top of the wall about two-thirds of the way along the north wall.  We came down from the wall at the Puerta del Carmen.

From many locations inside the walls, one can spot the cathedral.
Several posters on display.
The main entrance to the Cathedral of Ávila.
Detail of the carving above the main entrance to the cathedral.
A part of the ancient wall.
On the wall looking toward the Cathedral of Ávila.
The San Vicente Basilica as seen from the wall.
The front of San Vicente Basilica.
Monsignor Henry on the wall in Ávila.
View along the north wall.
The Puerta del Carmen.

Then we walked along the base of the wall all the way back to the Basilica of St. Vincent. The Basilica was built on the site of martyrdom of three Christian siblings which occurred in about 306.  The name of one of the siblings was Vincent, thus the name of the basilica.

Construction of the current Basilica began in the 1000s. In the basilica, near the main altar, is the Tomb of the Holy Martyrs.   This tomb dates from the 1100s and contains the remains of the three siblings.

The north wall as seen from the street level.
The colonnade of San Vicente Basilica.
The baptismal font in the basilica.
The altar in the basilica.
The Tomb of the Holy Martyrs in the basilica.
On the way back home, the road winds down toward El Escorial.
El Escorial cannot be missed!

After touring the basilica, we bought a couple of bottles of water and went back to the car for the drive home.

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