In the Footsteps of St. Teresa of Avila
By Paulina Sánchez |
Teresa of Avila was a traveler in her time. Visit southern Spain and discover Teresa’s Footprints.
FOOTSTEPS OF SAINT TERESA TRAIL IN SPAIN
For centuries, people have traveled to faraway lands inspired by faith and devotion. This is how routes like the Road to Santiago, the expeditions to the Holy Land and journeys to Mecca were established.
Travelers who participate in these travels are commonly known as “pilgrims” a word that comes from the wordsper and agros that mean “a person who walks along the countryside or away from home”. However, nowadays these trips have become a touristic practice that is not only motivated by reasons of faith but also by cultural interests. Therefore, religious tourism is a practice that has gained popularity, particularly in Europe where over 15 million people travel every year to visit places where relics, works of art, tombs of saints and homes of historic characters who were relevant for the dissemination of religion are housed.
WHO WAS SAINT TERESA OF AVILA
The year 2015 was very special for Spain because it commemorated the fifth centenary after the birth of Teresa of Avila, the woman who promoted the sixteenth century reform of the Carmelite Order, creating the discalced branch of the Carmelites. This nun dedicated 20 years of her life to founding 17 convents in different cities of the peninsula, so we can say that she was a traveler of her time; hence her nickname “the rambler nun”.
In order to discover the Footsteps of Saint Teresa as they called the touristic initiative that promoted visiting the different places where Teresa founded her convents, you can choose among different routes that include destinations such as Medina del Campo, Valladolid, Pastrana, Salamanca, Segovia, Caravaca de la Cruz, Palencia, Burgos and more. Yet, the route DINKtravelers wants to recommend includes Granada, Seville, Toledo and, evidently, Teresa’s hometown, Avila.
ONE DAY IN AVILA SPAIN
Begin your journey in this fortified city where Teresa spent her childhood years and her youth.
Don’t miss the Church of Saint Teresa, built on the premises of Teresa’s former home. Also, visit the Monastery of Saint Joseph, the first convent that was founded according to Teresa’s ideal of simplicity and austerity. Finally, go to the Monastery of The Incarnation –you’ll recognize it thanks to the tall sculpture of Teresa you’ll find standing in front of the façade– built outside the city walls. It harbors the Teresian Museum and it offers a splendid view of Avila.
BEST FOOD IN AVILA
Try the famous Yemas de Santa Teresa, traditional sweets that are made of egg yolk and sugar, and pair your coffee with the peculiar cookies known as tetillas de monjas (nuns’ boobs).
This pilgrimage route is worth visiting at a slow pace. This way you won’t only have touristic enjoyment but also aesthetic enrichment. Take your time to visit Avila, a city that had its “Golden Age” in times of Teresa, the woman whose work left an echo that resounds in every corner of this destination.
Now, we’ll take a train and head to our next stop:
ONE DAY IN TOLEDO SPAIN
Teresa, who was born in 1515, visited Toledo until 1562. During the winter she spent there she began to write her copious literary work.
Visit the Plaza (square) de Santa Teresa de Jesus, near the Cambrón door that leads to the city’s outskirts and offers an impressive view of the surrounding landscapes. At the square you’ll find the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites of Saint Joseph that served as Teresa’s country home and where she wrote The Book of My Life as well as the first pages of her crowning work The Mansions.
BEST FOOD IN TOLEDO
Apart from the classical marzipans, the Toledan trout prepared with vinegar, olive oil, garlic and spices is to die for.
ONE DAY IN SEVILLE
The beauty of this city is truly heart-rending; from its golden sunrises that embrace the Cathedral’s Giralda to the romantic sunsets at the Plaza España with its colorful mosaics and its carriage rides.
It was in Seville where Teresa established her eleventh convent, which was first installed near the Indies pier although it was then moved to its current location in Santa Cruz. Even though Teresa wasn’t there when they moved, the convent is special because it houses several relics of the Saint, including her portrait and the original manuscript of The Mansions.
BEST FOOD IN SEVILLE
Try the Macarena-style fried eggs served on puff-pastry baskets.
ONE DAY IN GRANADA
This millenary city harbors a beautiful combination of the influence left by the Arab world in Spain and its later transformation after the Catholic reconquest. It serves as a cultural reference because it reminds us of times when a peaceful cohabitation of different religions has been possible.
The monastery of Saint Joseph in Granada was the sixteenth and next-to-last establishment Teresa made. Yet, due to her illnesses and because she was preparing her last foundation at the same time in Burgos, she wasn’t able to attend the convent’s founding ceremony. Still, until today, it houses a community of Carmelite nuns.
BEST FOOD IN GRANADA
This destination’s gastronomy combines the traditions of Arab and Andalusian cuisine. One of our favorite dishes is ajoblanco, a cold soup that is prepared with bread, ground almond, garlic and olive oil. Pair it with grapes or diced melon.
Ask for your pilgrim card and get it stamped at each of the destinations included in this route. After you get 4 stamps, go back to the city of departure, Avila, and show your card at the pilgrim’s office. You’ll receive a traveler’s merit distinction as proof that you went on the expedition to find Teresa’s Footsteps!