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Published: August 17th 2019
First stop this morning is the 12th century Avila Cathedral. One of the most notable things about this event is that I’m able to get Issy into a Cathedral. She went into a chapel in Salamanca for a few minutes a couple of days ago, and the fact that the roof didn’t fall in has clearly encouraged her to try her luck on bigger and better things. The roof seems to be holding firm today as well, which is good for her, as well as for the hundreds of other tourists who are here. I’m quite pleased as well. The Cathedral is impressive, if not quite on the same grand scale as those in Segovia and Salamanca. The rear of it forms part of the town walls, complete with turrets.
The stress of waiting for the Cathedral roof to fall in seems to have got to my beloved, so she heads back to the hotel for a well earned siesta whilst I traipse down the hill, across the Rio Adaja and back up the other side of the valley to Los Cuatros Postes, or The Four Posts. This is a very simple shrine consisting of four stone pillars around a
cross. There are apparently a few different theories around its origins. The most popular one is that it marks the spot where seven year old local hero St Teresa and her brother were stopped by their uncle from going off to try to spread The Word of God to the Moors, and probably turning themselves into martyrs in the process. The views of Avila and its walls from up here are stunning.
I walk back up into the town and visit the 17th century Convent of the very same St Teresa, which is built on the site where she was born. She was apparently a real mover and shaker during her life, but the action really hotted up after she died, and it seems that everyone was then keen to get a piece of her, in more ways than one. She was originally buried in the town of Alba de Tormes, but nine months later they dug her up and buried her again here in Avila. The local duke apparently wasn’t too happy about this, so a year later he had her dug up yet again and taken back to his home town; as extra insurance against a recurrence
he then got the Pope to threaten excommunication on anyone who tried to move her again. In between all this various pieces of her got lopped off, including fingers, her heart and one of her eyes, and transported to various different churches around Spain, as well as a couple in Portugal and France. Even General Franco eventually managed to get hold of one of her hands which he kept until he died. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this historical (I hope it’s historical) obsession with saint’s body parts, but I am left wondering how the saints themselves might have felt about it. I can’t help but think that they might have preferred all this macabre energy be transferred to slightly more charitable pursuits.
Next stop is the Parroquia de San Pedro Apostolo. It looks ancient, dark and sombre, and I’m sure it’s got interesting history, but I think I’m starting to get a bit churched-out.
The Avilians certainly seem to be very proud of their walls, and I’ve heard Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall“ pounding from more than one set of speakers as we’ve done the rounds here over the past couple of
days. As I’m walking back to the hotel another rendition gets me in the mood, so I collect Issy and we climb one of the towers near the front of the hotel and start our trek along the top of the legendary walls. Only a bit over half of the perimeter is open to pedestrians and that’s in two sections; we need to climb down and back up again to get around the part that’s built into the Cathedral. Apparently other sections are being progressively made safe and brought on line, although it’s unlikely the whole perimeter will ever be walkable due to other structures being incorporated into it. About a third of the towers are open for climbing and the whole structure seems to be in good condition. The views from up here as the sun is setting are excellent.
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