Monday, February 8, 2010

The Quest for el Dedo in Ávila

The school weeks zip by here in Spain! (probably because I only have a 4 day school week) But on the flip side of that, the weekends seem to last forever... which sounds really nice, but can actually get pretty boring. So far, we've been lucky and have spent each weekend visiting somewhere new. This weekend was no different...we went to Ávila. It's close to Madrid and there are not TOO many exciting things there, so on Friday we made a day trip out of it.

Ávila is a beautiful town which is still surrounded by its Medieval city walls. It is possibly most famous for being the birthplace of Saint Teresa of Ávila (also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus) and it has many buildings and monuments dedicated to her.

When one of my roommates suggested we go there over the weekend I thought it wound be nice to get to see another city in Spain. Then when I learned it was the birthplace of Saint Teresa I was even more into the idea because I learned about her last semester in a Catholic Faith course. BUT then on Thursday in my Hispanic Literature course my professor was talking about St. Teresa and mentioned that there are a lot of relics of hers in the town.... INCLUDING HER FINGER!!!!! I was creeped out for a second then could not wait to see what a 495+ year old finger would look like. Was it in an open display or in a box? Has it been magically preserved or is it rotting? I was about to find out the answers to these questions... but it took a bit of work.

My roommates Danielle and Chloe and I met up with two friends from SLU-Madrid, Kelley and Caitlin, and took about an hour ride in the worst bus I've taken since I've been here. There was barely any leg room, and most of the seats were littered with wrappers, bottles and grossness. But with all of the excitement over the finger, I barely noticed the nastiness on the window next to me, the gum wad stuck on the seat in front of me, or the mice scurrying at my feet. (ok, the mice is an exaggeration)

So we got to Ávila and decided to head straight for the town's Cathedral. The Spanish are all about their Cathedrals... so we thought the finger was probably hanging out in there. We wandered around and were literally the only people there, with the exception of the security guard who kept following us. In addition to just being a church, there were many rooms that had different art and historical artifacts. As I walked through each room my eyes were searching for the finger. But when we finally reached the end... nothing. Our search continued.

We found a museum about St. Teresa and it seemed logical to us that it would house her finger. So we went. It was interesting and had a lot of great artwork and artifacts about her. But not the finger.

Then we saw the convent dedicated to her, which was built on her birth site. I held my breath while turning every corner, hoping it would be there. But again... no finger. The third time was clearly no charm for us. :(

We were upset. We were discouraged. We were about to give up all hope. But, as we glanced depressingly into the distance something caught our eye. A sign on a tiny building next to the convent that read, "Sala de Reliquias". Reliquias must mean relics... so her finger must be here! I could feel my heart beating faster in my chest as I approached the building. I opened the door... and it was a gift shop. A GIFT SHOP. We stood disgusted for a second, then noticed a large glass door on one side of the room. I walked in and noticed a bunch of old things- clearly Teresa's. And to my right was the possession of hers I was most looking forward to seeing: Her right ring finger.

It was in a large glassed in case attached to the wall. The back of the box was a dark color and the box was not lit at all, so it was really difficult to see. But with a big emerald ring on it, it was almost identifiable as a finger. It was pretty black and shriveled. To me it looked like a stick. But, we weren't allowed to take pictures so I can't share it with you fine folks. I even looked online for a picture and one doesn't seem to exist! I spent most of my time in the room looking at the finger, but also saw the sole of her sandal, her walking stick and her robe. For some reason the finger didn't really creep me out. I just thought it was really neat. I don't like seeing dead people, I'm afraid of ghosts and faint fairly easily, so I was expecting to be traumatized by this finger. Not the case at all. In fact, it reminded me of my Dad and Grandpa and their long lost fingers. A rotting finger made me think of home. Weird, huh? :)

After completing our quest for the finger, we didn't have too much time left in Ávila. We spent the rest of our time walking on the walls of the city, which were built in 1090. I am very afraid of heights and it took me twice as long to get up to the top as everyone else, but even with shaky knees I made it. The views from up there were gorgeous.

Satisfied with our day we made our way back "home" to Madrid. The rest of the weekend wasn't as exciting as Friday... I didn't see any other body parts of saints :( But on Saturday I explored the Sol area of the city a little bit more, and on Sunday went to El Rastro a big Flea Market that's really well known. I was pretty let down by El Rastro, I guess I just pictured it to be different. It was just people selling a bunch of random stuff. Big piles of shoes, clothes and antiques. I think I pictured it as more of a farmers market. It is crowded, boring and known for its pickpockets, so I don't know if I'll be back. I'm glad I checked it out though or else I would have been wondering about it every weekend!

Today was the start of another school week that I'm sure is going to fly by, and tomorrow marks 1 month since I left Chicago to come here. That means my time here is 1/4 over! yikes! Next weekend I'm going to Cadiz, Spain to celebrate Carnival. It should be a really fun time. We're all very excited. Obviously I will let you all know how it goes :)


  1. I was really hoping for a picture of the finger... and I think it's sweet that a rotted finger made you think of home! Ha, not many people can say that :)
    I'm glad you had a good weekend- and jealous that your weeks go so fast!!!
    1/4 done... geesh time flies!!! Keep having fun :)

  2. I love the sites you've been showing us through your blog! It's so interesting to see all the history of Spain! I'm still amazed at their fascination with body parts (heads and fingers!) Glad your search led you to the finger! During your visits to the various locations did you ever ask where the finger was on display? Have a great time at safe!

    Love you!

  3. I love how I can hear your voice when I'm reading this-with all those special words you like to use-like grossness:) Glad you found the finger-most suspenseful blog yet!!! Have fun at the Carnival!!!

  4. I thought you were serious about the mice!!!! Hope you are having fun in Cadiz.....I bet seeing a city surrounded by walls was pretty cool, I would have been afraid to walk on them though. Glad you found the courage to do so....Love you and have fun! Feliz dia de los amor...(I forget how to say "happy" so I think I said "merry" instead.) you'll know what I'm trying to say:)