Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Avila
AVILA, a province of Spain, one of the modern divisions of the kingdom of Old Castile, situated between long. 4 14 and 5 55 W., and lat. 40 48 and 41 18 N. It is bounded on the N. by Valladolid, E. by Segovia and Madrid, S. by Toledo and Caceres, and W. by Salamanca. The area is 2570 square miles; population, 176,769. It naturally divides itself into two sections, differing com pletely in soil, climate, productions, and social economy. The northern portion is generally level; the soil is of indifferent quality, strong and marly in a few places, but rocky in all the valleys of the Sierra de Avila ; and the climate alternates from severe cold in winter to extreme heat in summer. The population of this part is agricultural. The southern division is one mass of rugged granitic sierras, inter spersed, however, with sheltered and well-watered valleys, abounding with rich vegetation. The winter here, especially in the elevated region of the Paramera and the waste lands of Avila, is long and severe, but the climate is not unhealthy. The inhabitants are occupied in the rearing of cattle. The principal mountain chains are the Guadarrama, separating this province from Madrid ; the Sierras de Avila, a con tinuation of them westward; the Sierra de Gredos, running from the south of Piedrahita through Barco, Arenos, and part of Cebreros ; and the Paramera, stretching southwards from the city of Avila into Arenas and Cebreros. The various ridges which ramify from the latter are covered with wood, presenting a striking contrast to the bare peaks of the Sierra de Gredos, and the barren levels in which they rise on the north. The principal rivers are the Alberche and Tietar, belonging to the basin of the Tagus, and the Tonnes, the Corneja, and the Adaja, belonging to that of the Douro. The mountains contain silver, copper, iron, lead, and coal, but their mineral wealth has been exaggerated, and the actual production is absolutely nil. Quarries of fine marble and jasper exist in the district of Arenas. The province has declined in wealth and popula tion during the last two centuries, a result due less to tho want of activity on the part of the inhabitants than to the oppressive manorial and feudal rights and the strict laws of entail and mortmain, which have acted as barriers to improvement. The principal production is the wool of the Merino sheep, which at one time yielded an immense revenue. Game is plentiful, and the rivers abound in fish, specially trout. Olives, chestnuts, and grapes are grown, and the culture of silk-worms is also carried on. There is little trade, and the manufactures are few, consisting chiefly of copper utensils, lime, soap, cloth, paper, combs, &c. The state of elementary education is comparatively good, and the ratio of crime is proportionately low (Madoz, Diccionario de Espana).
Avila (the ancient Alula), a city of Spain, the capital of the above province, is situated on the right bank of the Adaja, about 3000 feet above the sea-level, at the termina tion of the Guadarrama Mountains. " On all sides," says a recent traveller, " the town is surrounded by a tawny desert, over whose arid plains numbers of gray boulders are scattered like flocks of sheep." Its ancient wall is stili in good preservation, crowned by a breastwork, with towers of great strength ; but a large part of the town lies beyond the circuit. Avila is the seat of a bishop suffragan to Santiago, and has a Gothic cathedral, built by Garcia dc Estrella in 1107; a number of interesting churches, such as Santo Tomas, with the beautiful tomb of Prince Juan, San Vincenti, with its remarkable carving, and Nuestra Seraf. Madre Santa Teresa, built over the birthplace of the patroness of Spain (who here founded the convent of St Joseph); as well as several monasteries and schools, an infirmary, and a foundling hospital. It was formerly the seat of a university, which was founded in 1482, and changed into the college of St Thomas in 1807. The only manufacture of any importance is the spinning of the wool furnished by the native sheep. Population, 6892.