Guide to Avila – Castilla y Leon, Spain
Avila is known as the ‘City of Saints and Stones’, it is the highest city in Spain and possesses the longest city walls.
It was recognized by UNESCO in 1985 as part of the World Heritage for Humanity. It is one of the finest examples of Europe’s medieval era.
Geographically, Avila is situated at 1,130 meters above sea level. It offers an alternative climate to that of the rest of Spain. Often in the summer, Avila can offer some relief from the intense heat of the South of Spain or even Madrid. Avila is much visited by tourists today, yet in the late medieval ages, its visitors were pilgrims coming to the church in the centre of the walled city.
Throughout time, Avila has kept its medieval charm, with its Gothic cathedral and fortifications, which are the most complete in Spain.
Its infamous Romanesque protective walls were built in the 12th century. Extending for 2,500 meters (8202 ft.) and encircling the old town, the massive walls are punctuated by ninety, heavily fortified stone towers. In the 11th century, Avila was founded to protect the Spanish territories from the Moors.
Avila is the birthplace of Saint Theresa of Jesus who experienced frequent visions. Near to the church stands the house where St. Theresa lived. Other famous residents included the Great Inquisitor Torquemada and whose burial ground can still be found there today.
Avila is a city of contrasts; the hustle and bustle of the market against the quiet repose of the temples and cloisters around the Plaza de Santa Teresa where you will also find a number of cafes.
Inside the city walls is an active shopping district where visitors can also experience magnificent historical treasures such as the Basilica of Saint Vincent and the Avilas cathedral, of the Cistercian Order, which is set into the ancient walls.
Things to see in Avila
The Cathedral is a fine example of the eldest transition of the Spanish Gothic. Beginning with the Romantic style of the 12th century and ending with the Gothic style in the inner sanctum of the cathedral and shaped in the form of a Latin cross with an intersecting cross at its exact centre. The Interior of the Cathedral offers visitors an unforgettable experience, filled with light, history and liturgy. Nearby the Cathedral Museum can be found in the surrounds of the Main Chapel.
The Basilica De San Vicente
Saint Vincent’s Church is another perfect example of Avila’s monuments. Originating in the 11th century in honour of its martyr and his sisters Sabina and Cristeta, it is one of the monumental complexes of Avila. It began in the Romanesque style and finished in Gothic style. The Tower called ‘The Mule’s Square’ can be found in front of Saint Vincent’s Church.
Saint Theresa’s Church
Truly a breathtaking complex formed from the birth house of Saint Theresa of Jesus. The façade of the church possesses neoclassic and baroque influences. Personal objects, relics, and images are on display relating to the life of this Saint.
Saint Peter’s Church
Built in Romanesque style, with its beautiful open atrium, the Statue of Saint Peter crowns the complex. The lantern of the cross section is on its own a masterpiece.