A Walk through Heritage and History: Ávila and Segovia

One of the things I love about Spain is that it has preserved so much of its art, architecture, and history. The cities of Ávila and Segovia upped the notch for preservation, being medieval cities and having sites that have been built over 1,000 years ago. Both cities have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites and rightly so.

Ávila is Spain’s highest provincial capital, and the city is best known for its walls, which were built starting in the 11th century and completed in the 14th century.

Ávila also has the distinction of having the most Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain, including the Catedral de Ávila and the Basilica de San Vicente. The highlight of the latter is the tomb containing the remains of San Vicente and his sisters, Santa Sabina and Santa Cristeta, who were martyred during the rule of the Roman emperor Diocletian. The tomb has carvings of how crucifixions were carried in those days—and it is quite different from what we know.

One other highlight of Ávila would be the Convento de Santa Teresa, a shrine for St. Teresa de Ávila. The convent stands on the site of St. Teresa’s birthplace and has a small museum where her relics could be viewed—including her shoes and her right ring finger.

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Meanwhile, Segovia was first established as a Celtic territory before being controlled by the Romans. Its most defining feature is the Aqueduct of Segovia in Plaza del Azoguejo, which was built in the late 1st or early 2nd century.

The Catedral de Segovia is the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain, and as the guide explained, there are sections of the church where only royalty could sit and another section for the nobility—hence the phrase, “To hear mass,” as the general public are just usually outside, listening to the sermon. Inside the cathedral is a pre-Gutenberg bible from which the priests read.

The Alcazar de Segovia is built on a crag where the Eresma and Clamores meet. The guide explained it’s actually an inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle, and it’s easy to see why. The structure bears Romanesque, Gothic, and Mudejar influences, and the views from its tall windows at the throne room shows vast tracks of sandy brown hills set against a clear blue sky. The Alacazar’s throne room has two thrones—for Ferdinand and Isabela, who created the united realm of Spain.

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