Christ, by Gregorio Fernández, Convent of Sant...

Christ, by Gregorio Fernández, Convent of Santa Teresa, Ávila de los Caballeros, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Province (AV) in central Spain, west of Madrid, which was formed in the 18th century from Old Castile and and now belongs to the autonomous community of Castilla y León.   The south of the province is mountainous, the north belongs to the meseta.

It is named after its capital, which is northwest of Madrid and was once a Roman settlement, Avela or Abula.   It lay in the vast region north and south of the River Duero in which Alfonso I of the Asturias (739-57) destroyed fortifications and withdrew the populations into his own Kingdom.

The region to the south of the Duero was still largely devoid of urban population when Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile took Toledo in 1085.   He decided to repopulate the region to back up Toledo and to provide defence if it was taken.   It was around the turn of the century that the restored town took shape, standing on a hill rising from the River Adaja, beside its confluence with a smaller river, its defences later enhanced by the building of massive walls which still stand.

In this region the people who were encouraged to come were the tough and the belligerent.   The town charters laid down the military duties expected.   The militia of Ávila in 1158 raided deep into Moslem territory, reaching as far as Seville;  in 1173 another Andalusian cattle and sheep rustling raid caused much bother, though the raiders did not get away with their gains, being defeated in La Mancha.   The full name of the city reflects this past, Ávila de los Caballeros.

Ávila lay in what had been the Kingdom of León but in the partition between the sons of Alfonso VII in 1157 it was included in the elder son’s Kingdom of Castile and thus became part of the region later called Old Castile.   The town is the seat of a Bishop.

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