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When my sister and I were ready to move on from Toledo, we headed to Ávila. Ávila is a little farther from Madrid than Toledo, but is northwest of Spain’s capital, whereas Toledo is to the south.

Like Toledo, Ávila has an impressive cathedral and monastery, not to mention a basilica — all of which I’ve posted about in the past. But what stood out upon our arrival were the massive, stone walls, with their eight gates and 88 towers.

These walls form an irregular rectangle around the medieval centre of Ávila.

Parts of the wall have been restored so you can walk on it.

We found ourselves staying in a small hotel just inside those walls, next to the cathedral. To the best of my memory, it was just around the corner in this next photo.

Although we didn’t know it then, my sister would find herself back in Avila some years later to do historical research. Naturally I came back to visit her. This was the street where she lived for a year.

Keep walking, and you came to this gate.

Walk through the gate, and this is your view.

Not too shabby, eh?

I soon learned that in Ávila you can’t avoid the sixteenth-century mystic and saint, Teresa of Ávila.

Born into nobility, Teresa joined the Carmelites at age 20. She sought a more reclusive life than was available with the Carmelites, however, so she established a reformed order of Carmelites. They made their home here, in the Convent of San José, which Teresa founded in 1562.

It was in Ávila where I first noticed the storks that are ubiquitous throughout Spain — this church steeple has four nests in all. And so I will leave you with this pro tip: when in Ávila, always look up.

Through My Lens: Cloister of Silence of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás

Cloister of Silence

We’re still at the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás in Ávila for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This is a photo of the Cloister of Silence ― the second of the three interconnected cloisters. It contains 18 arches at ground level and 38 on the upper level and is where the monks were buried.

I love this stone well. I remember the feeling I had when I walked into this cloister ― it was as if I’d passed into Narnia and was wandering through the ruins of Cair Paravel with Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy.

Through My Lens: Cloister of the Monarchs of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás

Cloister of the Monarchs

My photo choice for today, the Third Sunday of Lent, is the Cloister of the Monarchs of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás in Ávila, Spain.

Work on this Dominican monastery started in 1482 and was completed in 1493. Real is Spanish for “royal” ― the cloister includes a palace built for Ferdinand and Isabella, who are commonly known as the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs).

I thought I’d died and gone to cloister heaven when I walked into this monastery. There are three sets of interconnected cloisters; the Cloister of the Monarchs is the third and largest one and contains 40 arches at ground level and 56 arches on the upper level.

Through My Lens: Cathedral of Ávila

Ávila Cathedral

It’s the Second Sunday of Lent, and we’re still in Ávila. Today’s photo is of the Cathedral of Ávila, which, like the Basilica de San Vicente I showed you last week, was also built in both Romanesque and Gothic styles. What’s unique about this church is that its apse forms one of the 88 towers of the medieval city walls encircling the old town of Ávila. I took this photo from the top of those ramparts in November 2010.

Through My Lens: Basilica de San Vicente

Here we are again in the Season of Lent. Last year for Lent, I took you on a tour of Parisian churches. This year, I’m going to post a few photos of some of the magnificent churches I’ve seen in Spain.

For today, the First Sunday of Lent, here’s a photo of Basilica de San Vicente in Ávila, a city in Castile and León, which is in northern Spain. This Romanesque–Gothic basilica dates back to the twelfth century.

The church was built to the memory of three martyrs: Saint Vincent and his sisters, Saint Sabina and Saint Cristela. They were killed in 303 by order of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Inside the church is Saint Vincent’s tomb, which is covered with intricate and detailed bas-reliefs of the torture and execution of the three siblings. They’re rather, er, graphic, but incredibly fascinating.

San Vicente