They constitute one of the main architectural jewels
of Ávila. The nobility would buy a small house and as time
went by would acquire the neighbouring buildings. The 16th century
saw the beginning of the custom of arranging them according to
a clear style: the buildings are developed on a horizontal plane,
arranged on two levels. They are sober and sparsely decorated,
but they may feature family coats of arms and affixed columns.
The door deserves greater building attention and is often marked with a large keystone; above it is the main window. The inside is reached via a hallway, which sometimes has a bend, and leads to the courtyard, around which the main rooms are distributed.
Palace of Ochoa Aguirre or of Superunda
The founding members of this family came from Navarra and settled in Ávila
around 1521, accompanying the bishop Rodrigo de Marcado y Loyola. The palace was built in 1580 by Pedro de Aguirre, Alderman of Ávila in the final years of the 16th century. It was subsequently inherited by different members of the family, and at the end of the 19th century it was the direct successor of the house, José Manso de Velasco y Chaves, Marqués de Bermudo y Conde de Superunda, who lent it the name by which it is still known today. It is one of the palaces which best preserves its primitive structure, given that there has been very little renovation. The façade is distinctly horizontal in character, finished off with two towers which have no defensive value. The decoration is to be found in the window spaces of the upper floor, and the eccentric position of the door is surprising.
Palace of Don Diego Del Águila or Palace
This house backs onto the wall and was responsible for defending access to the San Vicente Gate, the whole eastern stretch of the wall as far as the Tower of la Mula (“the Mule”) and a large part of the northern side. It was the land belonging to the different branches of the Águila family in the city, and was linked to the primogeniture of Villaviciosa. The Águila family descends from a great repopulator, Sancho de Estrada, who was a captain of Raymond of Burgundy and originally came from Asturias. Don Diego del Águila was the first of this surname, and was nicknamed “el Aguililla” (“the little Eagle”) by the Portuguese because of the eagle which appears on his crest and because of his fearlessness and the fear which he inspired. In 1551 the house was rented by the nuns of St. Clare, who settled here while the convent of las Gordillas underwent construction work. The Palace has undergone considerable transformations throughout its history and little remains of its original form.
Palace of Don Juan De Henao
The founder of this lineage was Álvaro de Henao, alderman of Ávila, who lived in the second half of the 15th century. His grandson, Juan de Henao, alderman of Ávila, “Corregidor” or King´s appointee for Ciudad Rodrigo, Úbeda y Baeza, Inspector of los Cuantiosos de Córdoba (a religious order dating from the 15th century) and Gentleman of the Royal House of Castilla, founded the primogeniture of the Henao family in 1582.
Palace of Contreras or of Polentinos
This palace is, without doubt, an exception amongst the palaces of Ávila. While the majority of them are sober and sparsely decorated, this palace has a great profusion of decoration which is not just limited to the family crests, and which is reminiscent of the school of Vasco de Zarza.
Palace of Valderrábanos
This palace belonged to Don Gonzalo Dávila, whose magnificent crest crowns the main portal. This crest was granted to him by the Catholic Monarchs in 1478, amongst other graces such as: adding the six roundels to the arms, a crowned lion and the Moorish flag which he had conquered in the Seizing of Gibraltar, inverted as a sign of victory. In this case the flag is held by a herald in his right hand. Don Gonzalo Dávila was Maestre Sala to the Catholic Monarchs, Corregidor in Jerez, Governor of the Office of Grand Master of Calatrava and took part in the Seizing of Gibraltar, snatching the enemy pendant as it fluttered in the square. This family became related to the Valderrábanos through the marriage of their eldest daughter with a member of this family. The palace must have been built in the 15th century, but after it was adapted in the 1960s for use as a hotel, precious little remains which might give a clue to its original structure.
This occupies the former stately home built in the 14th century by the Navamorcuende, who, like all the members of the Dávila family to which they belonged, built their palace backing onto the wall. Remains of the former structure are still present: solid stonework, arches with large keystones, crests with six roundels, geminated windows, machicolations, battlements, etc. The palace was bought from its old owners at the beginning of the 17th century by the Jesuits, and adapted to form living quarters for monks, a school and latterly a church. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 the king ordered that the facilities be used as a Seminary; but finally the bishopric moved from the former Episcopal Palace, known as the Palace of the Boy King (opposite the Cathedral) to this building (which was the property of the State after confiscation of Jesuit belongings), and thenceforward the bishops of Ávila used it as their residence.
Palace of The Boy King
A former bishops' palace, this was built originally as a defensive house backing onto the section of the wall between the Cathedral and the San Vicente Gate: its inhabitants (the Bishop) were responsible for preventing enemies from entering this part of the city. It is known as the “Palace of the Boy King” because, according to the chronicles, the future Alfonso XI was brought here for protection until a regent tutor was named by the court. The Bishops abandoned this house in 1775, when they officially exchanged it for the premises vacated by the Jesuits after their expulsion. The Palace remained in State hands and became the location of state schools. As time went by it became divided up and occupied by different bodies. It currently houses a public library and the main Post Office. One of its sides still has a magnificent corner balcony.
Palace of Núñez Vela
The lineage of Nuñez Vela has its origins in the count don Rodrigo Vela de León, whose descendent Blázquez Vela established the primogeniture of the house with Royal Authority. The most important work on this house was carried out mid-way through the 16th century. The building is developed horizontally and the façade is outstanding for its lack of symmetry, which gives a special attractiveness to the whole: spaces have been opened where necessary and the door has a slightly eccentric touch. It is decorated with slim columns and family crests. The hallway leads to the main courtyard which is very simple and elegant, and the magnificent stairway which leads to the upper floor is particuarly noteworthy. It was the seat of the Military Administration Academy until this was moved to a nearby building. It was later bought by the Town Council and became home to the Provincial High Court, which is still its occupant today.
Palace of The Serrano
This palace is the most typical example of how the houses of the 16th century were formed by merging them with houses bought from neighbours, although on the outside it appears to be one unit. The façade forms an angle, and the floors are arranged horizontally, using granite stone and masonry. The door is flanked by pilasters and three crests. In the centre is the inscription “Per Alvarez Serrano. Doña Leonor Zapata. 1555”. The floor space of the building is formed of two wings forming an angle. A rectangular hallway leads to the patio, which is unfinished. The columns are cylindrical and the upper gallery has balustrades on the south side, and a smooth guardrail on the east side. The palace was inhabited by the Serrano family, descendents of Blasco Jimeno “el Serrano”, so-called because he had land and property in the mountains. After passing through different hands, it became the head office, in turn, of the Savings Bank, the Civil Government and the Falangists. After a period of abandonment, it now belongs to the Savings Bank of Ávila.