Avila & St. Teresa

Avila, Spain

The birth place of Saint Teresa of Avila

It´s a small but very beautiful city, situated in the middle part of Spain, next to Madrid, and of course, it´s one of the nine provinces that make up the community of Castilla and León. It´s also the highest city in Spain, with 1136 meters over the sea, the winters are very cold.

Our city keeps the oldest walls in Europe and in Spain, which began to be built at the end of the eleven century, around the year 1090, when King Alfonso VI conquered these lands from the Arabs (Muslims) enemies and was finished at the second half of the twelve century.

The style is Romanesque with Mudejar influences, the Mudejar were Arabs permitted to live under Christian rules. The walls have very important physical features, with two and a half kilometers of perimeter or 2526 meters long around the perimeter, 87 towers, 9 gates and 2.500
battlements, the battlement is the empty space between two merlons. But the most important thing about the walls is to know that they were built over the old Roman walls, in fact, for building it, we reused stones that were carved in Roman times. Another very important monument in the city is the Cathedral, it was built at the end of the twelfth century, around the year 1172, when the walls had already been built.

The style progressed from Romanesque to Gothic, although this last one is very early, it´s the first Gothic construction in Spain.
But, maybe the most important thing about the cathedral is to know that it is a fortress, too, it´s a combination of Cathedral and castle, this condition, we can see it very well in the apse, in the head, which is embedded into the walls and thereby forms one of the strongest element of the
a whole defensive structure, the APSE seems to be just another tower of the walls, but the most important one.

Another very beautiful place that we have in Avila is the Main Square, with a neoclassic style. This is the place where you can see the town hall, built in the 16th century (the Golden Age for the city) and restored in the 19th century. But the most important thing for us in this square is to see
the church of SAINT JOHN BAPTIST was built at the beginning of the 16th century, and why is it very important?

In this church, Saint Teresa was baptized on April 4, 1515. Nowadays, we keep the baptismal font where She was baptized, an amazing piece built in granite at the beginning of the 15th century. And next to this square is situated the Church of Saint Teresa, which is very dear to all of us because it was built in the 17th century! It was built on the same spot where her house was situated, where she was born on March 28, 1515.

In this Church, we have a small chapel dedicated to Teresa, which is the most emblematic of the pilgrim because, in this space where we see the chapel, we know that Teresa's parents' bedroom was situated, and this was the place where she was born.
The chapel is decorated with different pictures, for example, you can see the four most important religious orders in her life:

  • Carmelites.
  • Jesuits.
  • Franciscans.
  • Dominicans.

Of each one of these orders, Saint Teresa  learned the most important thing:
- from Carmelites, the contemplative prayer.
- from Jesuits, the discipline
- from  Franciscans, the strength and the humility
- from Dominicans, the wisdom

So, now we make a small summary: What does she want in convents?

  • Prayer
  • Discipline
  • Strength and humility
  • Wisdom

And this is the Authentic Carmelite spirit. Saint Teresa was a great writer, although she didn´t know Latin, the official language of the Church.
She only knew the old Castilian, and her most important books are:

- Her Autobiography.
- Foundations Book
- The Interior Castle

But we love one called "THE WAY OF PERFECTION". In this book, Teresa is like a mother giving some pieces of advice to her daughters, and it is so beautiful when she says to them: "SISTERS, THE PROGRESS OF THESE CONVENTS IS THE PRAYER AND FOR PRAYING YOU DON´T HAVE TO THINK SO MUCH, ONLY TO LOVE SO MUCH."

Another very interesting place in the city is the ENCARNACION convent, built at the beginning of the 16th century and inaugurated on April 4, 1515, the same day that she was baptized in Saint John´s Church.
She decided to be a nun when she was 20 years old, in the year 1535, and Saint Teresa lived in this convent for 30 years, 27 as a Carmelite nun and 3 as prioress. In this place, she lived her most important mystical experiences, like the transverberation (piercing of the heart), when she saw an angel that pierced her heart with an arrow. She didn´t feel any pain, but on the contrary, it was a great pleasure for her. Years later, she described this experience as something wonderful that she lived.

And, of course, another experience that She had in this convent was the SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE, in this case, She was prioress, She was prioress from 1571 to 1573, and in this experience, She saw the figure of Christ revived, He was dressed with a red cloak and He had in his right hand one nail (spike)…Teresa, years later, wrote the words that Christ said to her:


Saint Teresa, in the year 1562, founded her first convent, SAINT JOSEPH. She wanted to live with the primitive rule of Carmel, this religious order was born in the Holy Land by crusaders who lived as hermits in Mount Carmel in the 12th century. Mount Carmel has always been considered the garden of the Holyland.
Mount Carmel has always been considered the garden of the Holyland, in fact, the Carmel, a Hebrew origin, means "garden", "orchard", or "vineyards of God".

Saint Teresa built 17 convents in her life, the last one was in Burgos.

Today, the Carmelites live with the same rules that Saint Teresa wanted in her convents in the 16th century.
These rules are very strict and hard, but when you ask them: Sisters, how do you pass your days?
Then, all of them answer you: PRAYING, WORKING AND SMILING.

Maybe the most important thing that Saint Teresa wanted to leave us was joy, happiness, and to face problems because we know that we aren`t alone; always someone will be helping us.


Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!