Week 4: A Tale of 4 Cities!

Week four was filled with many wonderful adventures! In my class, we learned about St. Teresa’s four major works, including The Book of Her Life, The Way of Perfection, The Foundations, and The Dwellings. Tuesday afternoon my class and I took a trip to the town of Alba de Tormes. 100_4004 We first went to the remains of the Castle of the Dukes of Alba. Most of the castle was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, but one tower still remains. Beautiful frescos decorate the walls and the ground floor contains objects found during the excavation of this sight. We then went to the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of the Annunciation where St. Teresa’s tomb is located. 100_4032 Her tomb is beautifully displayed over the altar. This church also contained some of St. Teresa’s relics, including her heart and her arm. It was incredible to see the heart that was pierced by Christ in the transverberation! 100_4028 Thursday afternoon, my class had the pleasure of celebrating mass at the Convent of Saint Joseph, the first convent founded by St. Teresa. Mass was celebrated in the primitive chapel, where St. Teresa and her fellow sisters celebrated their firs mass together. There is a larger church attached to the chapel, but the chapel has been beautifully preserved. Friday, my class and I spent the day in Salamanca. Upon our arrival, the tour guide first took us to the old Roman bridge that was once was a famous spot on the road to Santiago de Comp Estella. Next to the bridge is an ancient statue of a bull. This was the same bull that is in the famous Spanish novel Lazarillo de Tormes, which I have read in my Spanish classes at home! 100_4041 We then went to the New and Old Cathedrals. The two cathedrals are right next to each other and tower over the entire city. The guide also explained the history behind the University of Salamanca and the Pontifical University. Years ago, doctoral candidates not only had to pass their exams. They also had to kill a bull and write their name on the university wall with the bull’s blood. Talk about physical and mental exhaustion! The names still cover the outside walls. After visiting the main city plaza, my friends and I enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine. In the afternoon, we visited the Dominican Monastery of Saint Esteban. The beautiful church was filled with paintings and sculptures of famous Dominican saints. 100_4112 We then visited the old lecture halls and the library at the University and a few of the small museums filled with books and information about the University and the library. 100_4120 100_4123 Saturday morning my friends Veronica, Madeline, and I woke up super early to catch to travel to Granada. After our long train ride, we indulged in some delicious gelato and the walked to the Dominican Monastery where the Venerable Luis of Granada and wrote many of his works. His books of prayer were very influential in St. Teresa’s life. 100_4127 The outside of the church is decorated with beautiful frescos. We then climbed up the huge hill to the Alhambra. Before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella took the throne in 1492, unifying Spain under their rule, Granada was one of the last places occupied by the Muslims. The beautiful architecture in the city reflects this unique influence. 100_4138 The Alhambra used to be the Muslim ruler’s palace. This spectacular palace is filled with intricately carved walls and elegant tile work. 100_4143 We also explored the military fortress used for protection, located next to the palace. 100_4161 The entire property is decorated with charming gardens. From the Alcazar, my friends and I visited the cathedral, which was absolutely stunning. Unlike most of the churches we have seen so far, the inside of this church was white, which added brightness and drew attention to the artwork on the walls and on the elaborate altar. 100_4164 After a yummy paella dinner, we caught the train to Sevilla. I think we were all happy to get some rest at the hostel after a long day of traveling. In the morning we went to mass at the beautiful cathedral and then visited el Hospital de los Venerables. This hospital was originally opened for retired priests, but was used to nurse patients back to health during the plague. This elaborate hospital has a beautiful courtyard and a spectacular church, filled with colorful paintings. 100_4173 There is also a beautiful art museum inside the hospital, filled with stunning artwork from Spanish painters. We then walked to the Plaza de España. On the way, we walked through the colorful parks, filled with colorful flowers and horse drawn carriages. The plaza itself was the most beautiful plaza I have ever seen. 100_4178 A small river loops around the middle of the plaza and colorful mosaics of Spain decorate the stunning government building. 100_4189 We then walked to the smaller Plaza de America and visited the Museo Artes y Costumbres Populares (Museum of arts and popular customs). There were exhibits on Spanish silk, flamenco, and traditional Spanish life in this region. Heading back towards the center of town, my friends and I walked along the sparkling river. After eating lunch at a local café, we toured the cathedral and climbed up 34 stories to the top of the bell tower. This tower was once part of the mosk when the Muslims controlled the city. 100_4210 After a long and beautiful weekend of traveling, my friends and I boarded the train back home to Avila.

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