Avila and its walls is a World Heritage Site and a town which leaves one with mixed impressions.
A brief history
Avila1 was initially settled by the Vettons, a Celtic tribe, and they were succeeded by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire different civilisations settled here: Christians, Moors, Christians, Moors, and finally in 1085 King Alfonso VI took control of the territory.
The city walls date from this time which is also known as the ‘Knightly Saga’. An army was built from hundreds of knights with the task of protecting the city from attack. The army was also used to attack the Moors in other parts of the country. When the Moors were finally expelled from Spain in 1492 Avila started to decline, but in the 16th century started redeveloping. The wool trade was important and St Theresa of Avila and St John of the Cross were active in the town.
Decline followed again in the 17th century when the court moved to Madrid and many of the aristocratic families left Avila. Also the Moriscos (Moors who had converted to Christianity) were expelled from Spain, but they had sustained much trade, and many craft industries.
It was only the arrival of the railways in Spain in the 1860s which revived trade and development, although this was slow. Nowadays I suspect the tourist industry is a major income producer in Avila, while agriculture continues to be important in the province.
The Walls2 are c.3 kms long and there is a walk around the outside which we decided to follow one morning. It was a grey day but I took photos at different times during our stay and that accounts for the changes in sky and colour! I am going to start at A, at the Gate of the Cathedral, and progress anti-clockwise. There are detailed notes and descriptions in the footnote – this is just what we found and saw.
You can walk along the top of the walls but the path is very narrow – not our sort of thing – quite different to the walls of Lugo.
There is a long section from the Gate of San Vicente to the Gate of the Carmen. The gate is named after the Carmelite Convent which used to stand just inside the walls and where today there is a Municipal Archive. The Paradore of Avila is also just inside this gate.
From the Gate of the Carmen the walls slope steeply downwards.
The slope below the walls below apparently used to be much steeper but has been filled in and now provides a handy ski slope in the winter. And the green trees just behind the wall were once a farm, we think, in an area of the town where the tradespeople used to live.
Just inside the Gate of the Alcazar is the Plaza of Adolfo Suarez, and the Mercado Grande is always a good place for refreshments!
The walk around the walls of Avila is fun and good exercise as well – one can always finish with some light refreshment…