Top Historic Sights in Ávila, Spain

Explore the historic highlights of Ávila

Medieval Walls of Avila

The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls. The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already u ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Ávila Cathedral

The Cathedral of Ávila has Romanesque and Gothic architectural traditions. It was planned as a cathedral-fortress, its apse being one of the turrets of the city walls. It is surrounded by a number of houses or palaces. It is not known exactly when the construction of the Cathedral began, there being two theories. One states that Alvar García started its construction in 1091 inside the remains of the Church of the ...
Founded: 1091 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Vicente Basilica

Outside the city walls, the Basilica of San Vicente was built in Caleno granite in a way that was greatly conditioned by the lie of the land and in the place where tradition situates the martyrdom and burial of Vincent, Sabina and Cristeta. It is the prime model of the Romanesque style in Ávila and its measured proportions make it a unique example of the Hispanic Romanesque style. With its outside influences and the infl ...
Founded: c. 1120 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Santo Tomé el Viejo Church

Santo Tomé el Viejo Church was built outside the walls in the mid-12th century opposite the Gate of El Peso de la Harina (which was opened up in the 16th century when the Gate of El Obispo was closed). Built in Caleno granite, besides some of its interior elements, it conserves the 12th-century east and south entrances, with their semi-circular arches and archivolts set on columns on the west porch and on the fascia of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Pedro Church

Residing over Plaza del Mercado Grande, San Pedro projection is similar to that of the Basilica of San Vicente. The monarchs swore their respect for the charters of Castile in the atrium of the church, which underlines its importance during the period in which the town achieved its greatest relevance in the world of politics. San Pedro has a Latin-cross layout with a central nave that is larger than the side naves. Its c ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

St. Teresa Church

St. Teresa Church was built on the house in which Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born and is part of the Carmelite convent. Underground, the large vaulted burial crypt, which is currently used as the Museum of St Teresa, is the only example of its kind in Spanish religious architecture. The work was directed by the Carmelite architect Fray Alonso de San José and began in 1629. The building was opened on 15 October 1636. ...
Founded: 1629 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Segundo Church

Situated on the banks of the River Adaja, San Segundo church was built in Caleno granite between 1130 and 1160. Before it was dedicated to St Segundo after the remains of the town's first Bishop were found in 1519, it had been dedicated to St Sebastian and St Lucia. The Bishop's remains were moved in 1615 with great pomp and ceremony to the chapel of St Segundo, which was built on to the apse of the Cathedral specifically ...
Founded: 1130-1160 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Royal Monastery of Santo Tomás

The Dominican Monastery of Santo Tomás was built under the patronage of Hernando Núñez de Arnalte (treasurer of the Catholic Monarchs), his wife, María Dávila, the Inquisitor Fray Tomás de Torquemada and the Catholic Monarchs. The work began in 1482 and was completed in 1493; however, at the Catholic Monarchs" initiative, a palace was built around the eastern cloister, together with the sepulchre of Prince Jua ...
Founded: 1482-1493 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Martín Church

Built outside the walls to the north of the walled enclosure, San Martín Church has a Roman origin, as confirmed by the latest archaeological explorations. After the Roman building had been apparently ruined, it was rebuilt and radically transformed in the 16th century and at the beginning of the 18th century. In the 14th century, the tower was built on a base made of granite ashlar work and an upper body made of brick ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Convento de San José

The Convento de San José is a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Ávila. It is situated not far from the center of the city but outside the medieval walls. Saint Teresa of Jesus was the driving force behind the foundation of the monastery, which was built from 1562 onwards. The statue in the facade was commissioned by King Philip III of Spain via artist Giraldo de Merlo. In 25 August 1963, Pope Paul VI ...
Founded: 1562 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Santa María de la Cabeza

Built outside the walls to the north of the town, Santa María de la Cabeza was consecrated in 1210 and is the last example of the Romanesque style in Ávila. Its upper end was begun in Romanesque style and was followed by the construction of the naves in unquestionable Mudejar style. The three apses, which open into three naves, were built in granite on the outside and finished off with a small, plain cornice in Caleno g ...
Founded: 1210 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Santa Ana Monastery

Santa Ana Monastery was founded in 1350. Only some parts remain from the original monastery, current buildings where mainly built in the 17th century.
Founded: 1350 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Monastery of La Encarnación

The Monastery of La Encarnación was founded inside the town's walls in 1478, and as a Carmelite convent it was moved to outside the town in the 16th century. The new monastery was built on land that had been acquired by the Council on what had previously been a Jewish cemetery. On 4 April 1515, the date on which the saint was baptised, the unfinished monastery was opened with four naves enclosing a central courtyard and ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Andrés Church

San Andrés church was built in the quarter of Ajates (a suburb of mediaeval origin in which the main trade was masonry) in the second quarter of the 12th century. It was made in Caleno granite (very typical of the Romanesque style in the town) and is set according to liturgical criteria with an upper end with three apses that correspond to the three naves in the interior; it does not have a transept nave. The protruding ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Nicolás Church

San Nicolás church stands in the suburb of the same name outside the walls, a medieval quarter inhabited by Christians and dedicated to agriculture and sheep farming. It also had a large number of Mudejar residents. It was built in Caleno granite in the late-Romanesque style of Ávila between the second half of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th. The upper end and porches remain from the original construction ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.