Avila, Spain

The medieval walled city of Ávila, Spain. Photo Creative Commons License Br Lawrence Lew, OP.

Ávila is a medieval city in the province of Castile-Léon in western Spain, about 70 miles northwest of Madrid. Founded in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories from the Moors, Ávila has a magnificently well-preserved city wall, a historic cathedral, a number of Romanesque churches, and an authentic medieval atmosphere. For all these reasons, the entire Old Town of Ávila has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. For pilgrims, the city of Ávila is important because of its association with the great mystic and reformer St. Teresa de Jesus, better known as St. Teresa of Ávila. Teresa was a 16th-century Carmelite nun who reformed her order, had many ecstatic visions, and wrote several books. She is the female patron saint of Spain and was the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church. Ávila contains two main shrines honoring St. Teresa, along with a few more sites associated with the saint. The primary shrine is the Convento de Santa Teresa (Convent of St. Teresa), a convent contains her relics, and the second is the Monasterio de la Encarnacion, where St. Teresa lived and where her cell can be visited.

Avila Cathedral
Ávila's fortress-like cathedral was begun in the Romanesque style in the 12th century and later continued in the Gothic style, resulting in intriguing combination of styles and materials.
Convento de Santa Teresa
The main shrine of St. Teresa in Ávila, this 17th-century convent stands on the site of Teresa's birth and contains her relics.
Los Cuatro Postes
This little shrine outside the walls of Ávila marks the spot where, at age seven, St. Teresa's uncle stopped her from running off to seek martyrdom from the Moors.
Basilica de San Vicente
This splendid Romanesque basilica outside the walls of Ávila marks the site of the martyrdom of St. Vincent by the Romans.
Monasterio de La Encarnación
An important pilgrimage stop, this Carmelite convent is where St. Teresa of Ávila lived, wrote and had many of her mystical experiences.