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The Camino Teresiano, from "Cradle to Grave" (De la Cuna al Sepulcro), is an historic four to six day walk, celebrating the life of St. Teresa of Ávila, from her birthplace in Ávila, Spain to her burial place in Alba de Tormes, Spain. This short Camino traces a path through the area where she did her saintly work, along with her contemporary mystic, St. John of the Cross.
This route is also known locally as the "Ruta Teresiana" the feminine version of the name, so it can be a bit confusing.
“Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass;
God never changes.
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.” ~ St. Teresa of Ávila
St. Teresa of Ávila was a Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus (Santa Teresa de Jesús) who lived from 1515-1582 in the province of Ávila. She established many Carmelite convents in the area, which are standing and in use to this day.
St Teresa is considered to be a reformer of the Carmelite order from what it had become in the 16th century and the foundress of a new order called the "Discalced Carmelites" or the "Teresians." Her intent was to reform the order, back to its original 12th century roots.
The term "discalced" was used as a derivative of the Latin word for "without shoes," since the Carmelites would go barefoot! The emphasis for the new order was to return to strict seclusion, radical poverty and contemplative prayer. (Taken from the webpage, The Cloistered Life/Carmelites.
Together with her male mystic counterpart, St. John of the Cross, they also reformed the Carmelite friars of the time. For a more complete treatise on the history of the Carmelites, please see their official webpage.
Her many literary works are still pertinent for today, including "The Way of Perfection" and "Interior Castle." These texts are still used by spiritual directors for those seeking a contemplative spiritual path.
St. Teresa thrived in the harsh environment of the Spanish Inquisition, where many non-conformists were brutally put to death, yet her works were venerated. Her faith and her strength are remarkable. Yet when you read about her and her simple life, she was humble, felt unworthy because of her self-proclaimed, many sins!
St. Teresa was said to have levitated during prayer, as recorded in her biography and witnessed by the sisters. You may reference the Deep Trance website for excerpts from St. Teresa regarding her states of rapture. She felt tortured by this gift from God, and when she felt it coming on, she would request her sisters to hold her down!
I have been reading her works and the layers are many, not to mention the difficulties in translation of her mystical words from Spanish into English. This English is hard to read and understand, for me at least.
It is because of St. Teresa of Jesus, that I chose to walk the Camino Teresiano. I was hoping to touch the spirit of her, deepen my own contemplative practice and find a new spirituality in walking.
The tourism offices in the provinces of Ávila and Salamanca promote this area and this route, as well as the Junta de Castilla y León. This towns in this area are heavily touristed by non-walking-pilgrims, as you might expect, but the pilgrimage route itself is often solitary.
There are actually two routes on this Camino, the Northern and the Southern, that branch in the town of Mancera de Abajo, on day three or four. The two Rutas Teresianas re-join in Garcihernández for the same destination of Alba de Tormes. Unfortunately, this map below does not show the northern route. Click here for a similar map showing both routes on a much larger scale.
The southern route, shown here, is a total of 106.6 kilometers (66.2 miles) and the northern, slightly longer at 117.2 (72.82 miles).
While this Camino is not an official Camino de Santiago, you can easily connect it with the Via de la Plata, starting in Salamanca, just 23 km to the west of Alba de Tormes. In fact, there is a walking path connecting the two, click here to see how it can be done. This is what I was planning to do!
Also, the first stage from Ávila to Gotarrendura is shared with the Camino Levante, one of the longer Caminos from Valencia to Santiago, at 1200 kilometers. It is on this first stage that you will see the most pilgrims.
As you can see from the elevation profile below, the Camino Teresiano is essentially flat! The start in Ávila is at approximately 1200 meters, followed by a nice downhill of almost 300 meters on the first stage to Gotarrendura. From there it is an essentially level Camino all the way into Alba de Tormes, at approximately 900 meters.
I was looking forward to my first easy Camino, hoping that it would be a great warm-up for the Via de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés to follow.
This Camino is filled with long distances through grain fields as the pilgrim walks from small town to small town, through this high and semi-arid central plateau of Spain. This area is the breadbasket for Spain, and the solitude of the fields, I hoped would give me a new appreciation for the Spanish baguette.
I was anticipating a hot and dry walk, so I planned for the more seasonable weather in the fall, with perhaps hot days, but at least cool nights.
I was also anticipating trying the Verdejo white wine, a speciality of the area, recommended to me by other pilgrimage travelers, chilled and refreshing after a long days walk!
The Way is very well-waymarked, as is reported consistently. Instead of yellow arrows designating the route, the Camino Teresiano uses these unique red arrows, shown here.
There are also unique concrete waymarks to guide you, as shown. In the photo, the name of the next town of "Alba" is included on the concrete waymark as well as the emblem of the Camino Teresiano, carved into the concrete.
I have also included a photo of the official emblem in color.
There is a unique pilgrim's passport, also known as the credential. It can be purchased at the Visitor Reception Center of Avila (Av. Madrid, 39, 05001 Avila, tel 920 35 40 00) and in Alba de Tormes (Castle of the Dukes of Alba, c / Castillo, s / n). Or you can download it here and print it out for yourself!
This is the only pilgrimage route that I know of that will issue you a certificate of completion, called the "La Andariega," whether you journey by foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or by automobile! How interesting is that?
You can get your Andariega at the same place you can purchase the credential, at the Visitor Reception Center of Ávila (Av. Madrid, 39, 05001 Ávila, tel 920 35 40 00) and in the Alba de Tormes (Castle of the Dukes of Alba, c / Castillo, s / n), depending on your direction of travel. It looks like this:
So, my dear reader, I am writing this article prospectively, in preparation for my walk in September of 2019. I thought it may be fitting to gather my thoughts before the journey, then post photos, vignettes and guiding material later.
If you are also considering this Camino, contact me and we can compare notes. There is precious little out there!
There is a Guide to Services that you can download to your device for offline use, but unfortunately it is in Spanish. There is also a downloadable guide for use in Ávila called the Trail of St. Teresa, which is in English and Spanish. This is a nice brochure of all the top sites to see in Ávila.
If you get to do this Camino before I do, Buen Camino! If you are patient, I should have my own information up by early 2020. Subscribe to my feed, (the little orange button under "Recent Articles") if you don't want to miss anything!
And thus, my Camino Teresiano, having already begun, I will leave you with these thoughts from the Saint herself:
"Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world." ~ St. Teresa of Ávila
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