According to myth, one of Hercules’ sons founded Ávila. The more prosaic truth, however, gives the honour to obscure Iberian tribes who were later Romanised and then, for their troubles, Christianised. For almost 300 years, Ávila changed hands regularly between Muslims and Christians, until the fall of Toledo to Alfonso VI in 1085, whereafter Ávila has worn its Christian identity proudly on its sleeve.
‘Ávila of the Knights’ went on to become an important commercial centre with a well-established noble class, although the 1492 edict expelling all Jews from Spain robbed the city of much of its lifeblood. Meanwhile, Fray Tomás de Torquemada, the infamous 15th-century leader of the Spanish Inquisition, ended his days in Ávila.
By the end of the 16th century, the city’s heyday was over and it has only recently begun to shake off the deep slumber that ensued.