Sunday, 3 July 2016

Alba de Tormes: Nun Of That Masochism

After checking out of our surreal drive-through hotel and feasting on caquis, bananas y manzanas, we continued our drive south.
An unexpected mist descended upon us and blanketed the surrounding countryside.

Alba de Tormes, Spain (Alba de Tormes, España)
November 2015
Driving slower due to the low visibility, it was lunchtime when we arrived in Alba de Tormes.
We parked right in front of a keep, which is the only remnant of the Castle of the Dukes of Alba. The House of Alba has a long and prestigious history, starting with ancestors from the nobility of Toledo around the 12th-century. You may have heard of Eleanor of Toledo, wife to Cosimo I de' Medici - she was from the House of Alba, and was born right in Alba de Tormes.

On our brief visit, we attempted to find the old town, but were thrown off the scent by an oddly positioned church spire which led us astray. Instead we found ourselves walking past dilapidated houses covered in dust and dirt with rickety furniture shoved outside.
We saw signs for the convent of Santa Teresa, one of Spain's most famous Catholic figures. She lived as a standard nun until she felt that the Catholic church had become vacuous and concerned more with welcoming wealthy citizens inside to view the cloister than spirituality. At first, she was told that her thoughts were spawned from the devil, so she punished herself with heavy bouts of flagellation. But soon enough she embraced the ideas as divine and set about a reformation. She recruited Saint John of the Cross as co-reformer and together they spread ideals of humble living and self-punishment. Apparently Santa Teresa's motto was "Lord, either let me suffer or let me die." That's rather dire. At first unpopular, she and Johnny boy won over followers and forty years after her death she was canonised as a saint.

We did eventually find the Plaza Mayor and checked out a couple of churches. Taking a different route back to the car, we saw a lonely football that had been kicked too enthusiastically and became stuck in the grille of an apartment window. If I lived there and the windows opened inwards I'd punch it. That way it would fall back to the ground, though it would probably be even lonelier and more distraught from the punching.
A few fun facts about Alba de Tormes:
1. A large battle took place here (aptly called the Battle of Alba de Tormes) during the Napoleonic Wars, and the Spanish army suffered terrible losses.
2. The fourth Duke of Alba held the title of governor-general of the Spanish Netherlands in the 17th-century. Eh, what? Spanish Netherlands? What the heck is that? How have I not heard of this before?!
3. The eighteenth Duchess of Alba, who was head of the house until 2014, holds the Guinness World Record for most number of noble titles held by one person (57 titles in all). What a duchess! (And marquise, and countess, and countess-duchess, and vicountess, and lady.)

Today's post was almost called: The Fenestration of Wilson’s Spanish Cousin