Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the ancient town of Ávila. Ávila is located in Castile, and is the highest provincial capital in Spain. That means stiff breezes, cold winters, and an arid climate. It is famous for his cathedral, its connection with St. Teresa of Ávila, and its status as a city encircled by midieval walls. The best place to get a glimpse of the city is at cuatro postes, a little monument outside the city. The monument commemorates an event in St. Teresa's life, when she and her brother were little, and ran away from home to be martyrs at the hands of the moors. Their uncle discovered their absence and ran after them, catching them at this spot. We met a nice elderly gentleman here who comes here to watch the sunset. He gave us some postcards, and chatted for a while about the city and its history.
Now comes the moment of truth, the viewing of Ávila. Isn't it amazing? As you can see, it is completely encircled by nearly a mile of walls. The walls are built out of granite, and have 88 towers in them.
This picture shows one of the towers, as well as the belltower, which is a famous nesting place for storks. As you can see, the top is covered in their big brushy nests.
And here's a shot of the walls, butting up against the Castilian plains.
The walls are accessible to visitors, so we spent some time walking along them. This shows the parapets, and crennelations.
From the walls you can get a good view of the city, including the basilica of St. Vincent.
The cathedral is also built into the wall. I'm not sure why; Alex made the comment that the first thing to be taken out by enemy catapults would be the stained glass windows hehee.
Another shot of the towers, showing some of the wildflowers growing on the masonry.
A stork's nest on top of the cathedral.
Unfortunately the cathedral was closed so we went to the basilica of St. Vincent. This 12th century church stands on the spot where the Roman governor of Hispania, Vincent was martyred under Dacian in the 4th century. The saint's relics are in the church, along with those of his companions. Check out that elaborate stonework!
The famous "white Virgin" statue, wearing a dress that was a copy of Queen Isabel's.
The interior of the basilica.
And the lovely blue and gold chapel of St. Anthony.
Some of the ancient stone decorations in the sanctuary.
The forest of arches that give the basilica its shape.
You can go down to the crypt where St. Vincent and his companions were martyred.
Where there are several beautiful statues, including this large one of Christ's flagellation.
And this 14th century Spanish woodcarving.
A beautiful fresco of Santiago (St. James) the moorslayer.
Then it was on to the church where St. Teresa was baptized. There was lots of elaborate tile work in here, as you can see.
The altar was also lovely, with a huge statue of the Carmelite saint.
Then we visited the church built over the place where she was born. The church was simpler, but still striking.
Another statue of Christ's flagellation.
Then it was back outside to the city where we stopped for some Yemas, traditional lemon cookies made in Avila. From the piazza I shot this picture of a car passing through Ávila's gate.
Then we enjoyed a walk along the outside of the city, including stops at the markets. From here we got a really great view of the Castilian landscape.
This is Andrew, me, and Mr. and Mrs. Victoria walking around, looking up at the city walls.
And here's a shot of Andrew playing on the rocky ground near a tower.
We were surprised to find the church of San Pedro still open, so in we went. Very similar to St Vincent, it was a little plainer, but still impressive.
Some more beautiful exterior craftsmanship.
And here's a shot of the interior, looking out from under one of the arches.
The high altar, a shameless reproduction in my mind of the baldachino in St. Peter's in Rome...at least with regards to the decorations on the columns :).
And some ancient woodcarving on the interior of the church.
Exiting the church we walked down this peaceful street to the car, and said goodbye to Ávila. What a wonderful day!