Exploring the City

The past few days in Avila have flown by! On Tuesday, I spent the morning mapping the places I hope to visit over the next several weeks. After a lunch break, I walked around the grounds here at the residency. The dorm lays on several acres of land. Attached to the residence hall is the monastery. There is also a soccer field (or as they say here futbol), a rose garden, an area where the horses roam, and open fields full of colorful wildflowers and trees. 7 8 Afterwards, I went to further explore the city and get my bearings, and purchased a map that has become quite handy. 9 Dinner is at 9:00 every night, which is extremely late for American standards! After a big meal, I was ready for bed.
I spent the next morning shopping in the city. Up the street from my residence hall, there is a market and various shops. After buying groceries, I wandered into the charming little shops that dot the street. My favorites were the floral shop and the dress boutique. In the afternoon, one of my new friends and I went to walk on top of the old city walls, called Las Murallas. The walls were used to protect the city from invasion and surround the entire city. The view of the city and the mountains in the distance was impeccable! 10 11 I learned that there is a holy belt around the city, meaning that there is a church located in front of every entrance in the wall. This was done so that travelers who were unable to make it into the city walls before nighttime had a place to go. It also served as spiritual protection from attacks.
Thursday morning I was finishing mapping out my plans when I received exciting news. The Carmelites run a large, private library in Avila. Saint Teresa was Carmelite, and the library will hopefully prove beneficial to my research! Later in the day, I went to the outdoor book fair, located on a walkway known as “el Rastro”. This beautiful area is at the top of the hill and looks down into the city. The path was named after the local meat factory, but is now home to various art fairs and cultural activities. I also was able to explore the public library before lunch. Later in the day I went to the Monastery of Saint Thomas, which is attached to my residence hall! 16 The walls are filled with incredible history. There are three cloisters inside the monastery. The Cloister of the Noviciate was built by the request of Don Hernán Núñez Arnalte, who was the treasurer and secretary for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The other two cloisters were built per the request of the King and Queen. Rich ornamentation decorates the Cloister of Silence. 12 The arms of Castile and the Dominican emblem are everywhere you look. There were also many carving of pomegranates, which symbolizes the King and Queen’s determination to conquer the City of Granada from the Moors. This cloister also contains the confessional where Saint Teresa would go to confession. 13 Finally, the Cloister of the Kings was constructed as the summer palace for the Catholic Kings. 15 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had their only don, Prince Juan, laid to rest in the Church. He was a sickly child and later died from an illness. 14 The Church is beautiful, with various side chapels located throughout. Above the altar is a series of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order and the patron saint of the church. The choir has delicately carved stalls where the Friars would attend mass. There are three special stalls that stand out from the rest; one for the queen, one for the king, and one dedicated to Saint Dominic. The monastery also contains a Museum of Natural Sciences, and a Museum of Oriental Art. The artwork was brought back by Spanish Dominican missionaries from China, Japan, and Viet-Nam. Then, I finished walking on the other half of the walls. The stunning view overlooked the Cathedral, the Plaza of Saint Teresa, and el Rostro.18 19 17 20I then attended mass and evening prayer at the Basilica and stopped by the local pastry shop (la Pasteleria) for a treat on the way home.21
Today I spent a good part of the day starting my preliminary research on Saint Teresa. In the afternoon I took a break to walk around the grounds and read by the rose garden. It was nice to enjoy a warm, sunny day. The past few days have been rainy and unseasonably cold. Other residents told me that it was in the 40s and 50s just a week ago! I then attended mass and evening prayer at the Chruch of Saint Thomas with the Dominican friars. The beautiful day was topped off by banana gelato (helado platano) at the local ice cream shop. A great ending to the day!

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