Ávila (World Heritage)

By | August 10, 2021

Ávila is considered to be one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Spain. The outstanding building is the 2500 m long, completely preserved city wall from the 11th to 14th centuries with 88 towers and nine city gates. The Gothic cathedral was integrated into the fortification. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in Spain. The city also has numerous Romanesque churches. Ávila was the place of activity of the Doctor of the Church Theresa of Ávila (1515–1582).

Ávila: Facts

Official title: Old town of Avila and churches outside the city walls
Cultural monument: highest provincial capital of Spain (1128 m); important pillar in the Reconquista of Christian Spain against the Muslim Moors; City fortifications with 88 semicircular towers and 9 gates; City wall 2557 m long, average 12 m high, 3 m thick; Romanesque churches outside the city walls: San Nicolás, San Andrés and San Segundo with an alabaster figure of Saint Segundo created by Juan de Juni
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain, Castile-Leon
Location: Ávila, on the Río Adaja
Appointment: 1985
Meaning: with its very well-preserved city fortifications, it is an exceptional example of medieval city architecture

Ávila: history

1088 Conquest of Avila by Alfonso VI.
1090-99 city ​​wall
12./13. Century San Salvador Cathedral, the first Gothic cathedral in Castile
12-15 Century Basílica de San Vincente outside the city walls
1482-93 Convento de Santo Tomás
1515 Birth of St. Teresa, founder of 17 convents
1562 Carmelite Convent Convento de las Madres
1636 Construction of the Convento de Santa Teresa in the Baroque style

With a backbone made of wall vertebrae

The thoughts of this lonely city on the Castile high plateau sparked a series of images in the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who was a supporter of republican Spain in the 1930s: the Ávila of the nobles, the Ávila of St. Teresa and the Ávila a backbone of wall vertebrae and a wreath of crenellated towers. The »Control Room of Castile« is a city known for its cool climate and its bold, monumental stone cloak, in which it envelops its centuries and a large part of the winding old town.

After King Alfonso VI. Having snatched Ávila from the Moors with his Christian army, he and his son-in-law Raymond of Burgundy pushed ahead with the construction of an impregnable bulwark. As masters of their era, Casandro Colonio and Florín de Pituenga, with the help of craftsmen from northern and central Spain and captured Muslims, created a trapezoidal composite of coarse stone walls with circling and battlements, pierced by nine city gates, over a period of ten years. When looking for materials, they were not choosy and worked into the structure remains of defensive structures from the former Roman Avela as well as pre-Romanesque altars and graves.

A few decades later, church builder Fruchel realized a daring architectural concept. He tied a cross to a sword – certainly indicative of the Middle Ages – by connecting the first Gothic cathedral in Castile, which had begun under him, with the inside of the wall and integrating the apse into the city’s defensive wall. Between all the semicircular, bulging towers, the crenellated fortified church tower still looks more like an alien granite block from a distance and does not belong to one of the most light-filled houses of worship in Spain. Simultaneously with the construction of the stone wall belt, the hill town above the Adaja River attracted noblemen, craftsmen and traders who created a new existence in the reconquered land. As a testimony to a city’s history, they left behind in the course of which Ávila was considered one of the most important secular and clerical centers in ancient Castile, its palaces adorned with coats of arms such as the Palacio de los Valderrábanos, Romanesque and Gothic churches, chapels and monasteries. The city of St. Secundus, which venerates its first martyr outside its walls in the church of San Segundo, was not only a trading, military, religious and aristocratic city, but also the seat of textile manufacturers and administrative authorities.

Teresa of Ávila, who entered the order of the Carmelite Sisters of Ávila as a young woman, in order to live a life for God in strict penance and contemplation, stands for the blossoming of the intellectual high culture. Guided by visions, she campaigned for the reform of her order and the establishment of new convents for women. Her baptismal font in the Church of San Juan, the Encarnación Monastery, where she lived for almost 30 years, and the San José Monastery, which she founded, are reminders of the life and work of Spain’s patron saint. According to dentistrymyth, about 50 years after her death, the Santa Teresa Monastery was built on the property of the saint’s birthplace and decorated with sculptures by the sculptor Gregorio Fernández.

When strolling through Spain’s highest provincial capital, which resembles a true open-air museum made of stone, the centuries fly by: here the Romanesque basilica of San Vicente with its arcades and figures of the apostles, there the church of San Pedro with its Gothic rose window; A few steps further there are splendid Renaissance palaces: the palace of the Dávilas, defiant as the city wall and with the thought-provoking motto “When one door closes, another opens” on the facade, as well as the Palacio de Polentinos with its extravagant facade decoration in the style of the renaissance. Outside the gates, your gaze wanders as far as the hills and peaks of the Sierra de Gredos, which are often covered with snow capes. In between lies the inhospitable Castilian highlands. A sight like 900 years ago.

Ávila (World Heritage)