Spain: Mysticism in the Footsteps of Teresa of Avila

For the first half of March break, students will travel to Spain to share in a unique learning experience studying the life and works of Teresa de Avila, a Spanish mystic. This journey will introduce and expose students to classic and contemporary expressions of mysticism, grounded both within the Christian tradition and encountered outside of any formal religious doctrine.

This spiritual journey will allow Deerfield Academy students to walk in the footsteps of Saint Teresa. Our stay in rural inns near Avila will contrast with the boutique hotels of Madrid, reminding us of the diversity of experiences available today and also present historically during Teresa’s life. We will visit local monasteries, churches, religious communities and fortresses of significance in the region, with discussions around Spain’s diverse religious history. Teresa’s footsteps will lead us to the Sierra de Gredos, where we will hike and visit with goat herders, allowing us to explore local food systems in many settings, including a visit to an artisanal cheese factory and pimentón (local smoked paprika) producer. We will sample the best of the region, whether it be food, literature, music, or sport, and find time to wander with friends, in conversation or quiet contemplation, finding opportunities to identify how Teresa’s simple and well-lived life – her cotidianidad, to appropriate a Spanish word – might resonate with our own.

This program is open to all students with a preference towards those with a demonstrated interest in philosophy and religious studies and/or Spanish culture. All interested students are encouraged to apply by October 29. Financial aid is available for all trips with priority for students who have not previously received aid for a Deerfield trip.

Preliminary Itinerary:*

March 9: Depart JFK – Madrid

March 10 – 14: Simancas / Valladolid

Activities likely to include:

  • Visits to smaller towns of interest – including Tordesillas, Medina del Rioseco, and Medina del Campo – their religious communities, monasteries and museums in the footsteps of Santa Teresa. Discussions and readings will focus around the life and work of Santa Teresa, with auxiliary discussions on Spain’s diverse religious history as well as the Spanish inquisition
  • Visit with a local sculptor of religious figures and images
  • Cooking class focused on 16th century recipes with a local chef at her restaurant
  • Visit to the Spanish General Archives in Simancas
  • Day with a local musician and Sephardic historian
  • Exploration of local food systems and tapas tasting tour in Valladolid

March 14 – 17: Salamanca and Avila

Lodging at a rural inn in the town of Alba de Tormes or in a boutique hotel in the center of Avila.

Activities likely to include:

  • Visits to smaller towns and cities of interest – including Gotarrendura, Alba de Tormes, Avila and Segovia – their religious communities, monasteries and museums in the footsteps of Santa Teresa. Discussions and readings will focus around the life and work of Santa Teresa, with auxiliary discussions on life in 16th century Spain as well as on other important figures of the counter reformation, most notably John of the Cross
  • Visit to Salamanca and the University of Salamanca
  • Hike along historic travel routes in southern Avila, near the Sierra de Gredos

March 17 – 18: Madrid

Activities likely to include:

  • Tour of the Plaza Mayor and surrounding streets, Puerta del Sol, and the major sites of Madrid
  • Visit to El Museo Prado or el Museo Reina Sofia

March 18: Depart Madrid-JFK

*This itinerary is subject to change.

Program Notes:

  • Families are responsible for transportation from U.S.-based airport to the student’s destination for the remainder of March break.
  • During this trip, students will stay in inns and hotels. Meals will be shared in at hotels, restaurants, or picnic-style

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