1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ávila (city)

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ÁVILA (anc. Abula or Avela), the capital of the province described above; on the right bank of the river Adaja, 54 m. W. by N. of Madrid, by the Madrid-Valladolid railway. Pop. (1900) 11,885. The city is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst of a veritable wilderness; a brown, arid, treeless table-land, strewn with immense grey boulders, and shut in by lofty mountains. The ancient walls of Ávila, constructed of brown granite, and surmounted by a breastwork, with eighty-six towers and nine gateways, are still in excellent repair; but a large part of the city lies beyond their circuit. Ávila is the seat of a bishop, and contains several ecclesiastical buildings of high interest. The Gothic cathedral, said by tradition to date from 1107, but probably of 13th or 14th century workmanship, has the appearance of a fortress, with embattled walls and two solid towers. It contains many interesting sculptures and paintings, besides one especially fine silver pyx, the work of Juan de Arphe, dating from 1571. The churches of San Vicente, San Pedro, Santo Tomás and San Segundo are, in their main features, Romanesque of the 15th century, although parts of the beautiful San Vicente, and of San Pedro, may be as old as the 12th century. Especially noteworthy is the marble monument in Santo Tomás, carved by the 15th-century Florentine sculptor Domenico Fancelli, over the tomb of Prince John (d. 1497), the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella. The convent and church of Santa Teresa mark the supposed birthplace of the saint whose name they bear (c. 1515-1582) Ávila also possesses an old Moorish castle (alcázar) used as barracks, a foundling hospital, infirmary, military academy, and training schools for teachers of both sexes. From 1482 to 1807 it was also the seat of a university. It has a considerable trade in agricultural products, leather, pottery, hats, linen and cotton goods.

For the local history see V. Picatoste, Tradiciones de Ávila (Madrid, 1888); and L. Ariz, Historia de las grandezas de ... Ávila (Alcalá de Henares, 1607).