Millenary Ávila lies protected by its rosary-shaped walls. The trio of Islamic, Hebrew and Christian cultures is the starting point for a journey through art and tradition. Its past, related to the Vettonne and other cultures, is present in the city's culture. The spirit of Santa Teresa de Jesús, the mystical writer, can still be felt through the streets, her presence caressing the façades of the historical buildings of this city, which are ancient yet modern, sober yet bold.
Ávila is one of the oldest of all the cities in Castilla y León. The Celtic Iberians were the first to leave their mark, which can be seen in the stone boars and the nearby Castro de las Cogotas (hill fort), epicentre of the Vettone culture. The Romans also reached this area and the Arabs filled the area with their culture until the final conquest by the Christians.
Proud of its perfect combination of old and new, the city of the river Adaja invites visitors to take a look inside the city from the tops of the crenellations that have protected the city walls for centuries. However, only some sections of the walls are prepared for visitors wishing to see the excellent views of the city from above.
It is exactly this stone ridge that has made the city internationally famous, attracting tourists from all over the world who have come to follow the trail of Santa Teresa and explore a millenary city at the dawn of the 21st century. As old as Nôtre Dame
The eastern wall section is the most striking. Beyond it, the bulk of the city found outside the walls lies. According to the chronicles there seems to be doubt as to when construction began. However, documents exist that prove that the Frenchman Florín de Pituenga and the Roman Casandro were responsible for its geometry. The exact date as to when the first stone of this universal feat of engineering was laid, remains unknown. However some chroniclers believe that it dates back to the 11th century, taking 9 years to construct. 1900 people, mostly Muslims in captivity, helped construct this amazing piece of engineering. Consequently, in spite of it being classified as Romanesque, it contains remarkable Moresque features.
The contemporany construction of the Wall of Defence coinciding with that of the Nôtre Dame Cathedral was an important factor in the city's development. For almost a millennium it was a means of protection for the city and a way of inspecting trade exchanges. The 2.5 km rectangular walls ( the equivalent of a 1-hour walk) contain nine gateways and over 2,000 crenellations keep watch over Ávila's horizon as in past times. The Puerta del Alcázar and the gateway next to the Basílica de San Vicente are a must for every visitor.
In Santa Teresa's footsteps
The history of Ávila is closely linked to Santa Teresa and San Juan de la Cruz. Santa Teresa is renowned for her writings in La Morada and San Juan de la Cruz, also from Ávila, is known worldwide for having taken Spanish mystical poetry to its highest level.
No-one is more deeply-rooted with the Christian culture in Ávila than Santa Teresa. Recognised universally as a historic figure, she leaves this city with a mystical legacy as the unforgettable memory of her Carmelite reform campaign. Her mark can be found in places such as the Convento de Santa Teresa, a convent built in 1636 over her birthplace. Many other monuments allude to the Saint's life such as the Palacio de Núñez Vela (palace), the Iglesia de San Juan (church) where her baptismal fountain is kept and the Monasterio de Santa María de Gracia (monastery). The Convento de la Encarnación and the Convento de San José are the two most emblematic buildings with regards to the life of the saint.History according to Jews and Muslims
There is no doubt that the city's history across the years was marked by many people, some of whom were Hebrew and Muslim writers, such as Abraham Nissim Ben, Hebrew author of El Libro de la Sabiduría , Mose de León, author of La Rosa del Testimonio y del Esplendor during the thirteenth century and considered the most important book of Jewish mystical writings, and the named Mancebo de Arévalo, Arab author of Tafçira, a journal on his experiences with Muslim traditions and one of the last pieces of spiritual writing on Spanish Islam.
The first Gothic cathedral in Spain
Visitors curious to see what modern Ávila is like inside should take their time in doing so if they really want to enjoy the streets, plazas, nooks and crannies. Tourists will not be disappointed while wandering around the Paseo del Rastro where a view of the Valle de Amblés may be had from the superbly preserved mirador (viewpoint). Another interesting panoramic view is that which is perceived from the northern façade of the walls or the view from the Cuatro Postes at dusk when the city walls are completely illuminated. Some interesting Romanesque churches can be visited such as the Iglesias de San Pedro, San Andres, San Esteben, San Segundo, San Nicolas, San Martin or Santo Tomé. The Cathedral church is thought to have introduced Spain to Gothic architecture. This, however is not its only feature. Its main altar painting, the cloisters and ambulatory are also worth the visit.
If visitors prefer to leap back to Medieval and Renaissance Ávila, what better way than visiting the Palacio de los Velada (palace), of the Valderrábanos, Núñez Vela, Polentinos and Dávila. Writers and their love for the city
The Generación del 98 would become the generation of writers that best reflect the spirit of Santa Teresa's capital. Illustrious writers such as Azorín, Pío Baroja and Miguel de Unamuno ponder on the city from a perspective typical of that generation of writers. The universally renowned Federico García Lorca dedicated some of his earlier work as a young boy to Ávila, having spent a short period of time there. Dionisio Ridruejo and Luis Rosales also were captivated by the city famous for its walls.