Week 2: Tracing the life of St. Teresa

This week in Avila, I decided to trace the path of St. Teresa through the city. I spent each morning researching in the library and then went exploring in the afternoon. On Monday, I ventured to the Roman bridge that crosses over a little stream. 100_3528 The bridge is just large enough for foot traffic. It was such a quaint area, surrounded by big, green trees and glistening water. From the bridge, I made my way up the hill to los cuatros postes, or the four posts. As I wrote previously, this was the spot where Teresa’s uncle stopped her and her brother from running away to become martyrs when she was seven. From this viewpoint, you could look over the entire city of Avila, with its medieval walls and church bell towers popping up between the red-roofed buildings. On Tuesday afternoon, I discovered the Convent of Grace, where St. Teresa attended school.100_3531 This was a unique find, as it was not on my map and many locals are not quite sure of its location. Unfortunately, the convent is not open to visitors, but I anticipate attending mass there one morning, in the hopes of sneaking a peak at the interior. From there, I walked to the Church of St. Teresa, the place where she was born in 1515. 100_3572 Below the church, there is a museum dedicated to St. Teresa, filled with paintings, documents, and artifacts related to her life. After exploring the museum, I visited the beautiful, gilded church and further explored the room of relics. Wednesday afternoon, I went to the museum at the Convent of the Incarnation, the place where St. Teresa first entered as a religious sister in 1535. 100_3579 The entrance held paintings and furniture from the monastery. 100_3583 One of the chests contained all of the convent’s important documents, and required three keys to unlock. Three sisters were each entrusted with a key. 100_3586 Talk about tight security! On the way up the stairs, there was the chair that Pope John Paul II sat in on his visit in 1982; the fourth centenary of St. Teresa’s death. 100_3589 The third room was an imitation of what a cell looked like before the convent was reformed in 1940. 100_3594 There were also musical instruments and sheet music used by the nuns during St. Teresa’s time. The third room contained various relics and artifacts from the time of the Saint, such as Papal Bulls, letters written by St. Teresa, and keys to her cell. One of the most interesting pieces was a statue of “St. Joseph the Tattletale”. 100_3606 According to the story, St. Teresa would place the statue in here chair when she left on her various travels. When she returned home, the statue would talk to her and tell her all that occurred in her absence. Later that day, when I returned home, I had the pleasure of meeting Brother Carlos, one of the Dominicans who lives here with the Friars and is preparing to make is final profession in August. Then, a group of my new friends and I went out for a going away dinner for my new friend Frank. He recently left to return home to China after studying here for the academic year. Finals just ended, and many students left for home this past week. Dinner in Spain is an elaborate affair, with various courses. First, we enjoyed a selection of meats with bread, followed by a salad course. The main dish was braised beef with potatoes. The beef was the most tender, succulent steak I have had the pleasure if eating in quite a while. Thursday afternoon I walked to the Convent of St. Joseph, the first convent that St. Teresa founded, which was built in 1562. 100_3640 The church and museum had unfortunately closed for the day, but I was able to return on Saturday. I spent the rest of Thursday window shopping and running errands downtown. Friday was a very exciting day. In the morning, I attended mass at the Convent of the Incarnation. The inside of the church is spectacular, and the nuns’ singing was absolutely angelic. In the afternoon, I had the privilege of being invited to a bull fight with the Students from New York! I was told that it would be an amateur bull fight in a small town about fifteen minutes away. When I heard the word amateur bull fight, the other students and I assumed that it would be rookie bull fighters. You can imagine our surprise when we learned that we were the rookies! After showing us around the museum and the farm, the farmer took us into the small bull ring. Bulls cannot differentiate between 2-D and 3-D shapes, so we hid behind small segments of wall that were in front of the actual walls. When the bull came into the ring, we could move from wall segment to wall segment, dodging the moving bull. The three bulls that each had a turn in the ring were little bulls, but they sure could run. 100_3656100_3651 100_3655 Now I can officially say I have run with the bulls, inside the bull ring!! Saturday afternoon I went to tour the museum at the Convent of St. Joseph. A little, elderly Spanish women was kind enough to also show me around the church and the original chapel. That night, I went to dinner with my friend Goli, a teacher from New York. The restaurant was located on el Rostro, and runs along the city walls on one side and overlooks the city and the mountains on the other. For dinner, we had roasted vegetables, fries, and the largest stake I have ever seen! 100_3670 As the sun faded into the horizon, it was beautiful to see the walls light up. Lovely ending to week #2!

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