Avila and Concha Velasco: a Teresian screen route

It is possible that, after the death of the great Concha Velasco, you may be one of those who have wanted to pay tribute to her by revisiting some of her many interpretations. From that lithe “Red Cross girl” in 1958 to “Las chicas del cable” in 2020, the actress from Valladolid gave life to hundreds of characters. 

Although few like her tackled comedy, she will undoubtedly be remembered for her dramatic roles and the dimension she gave them. Of all of them, Concha herself had a predilection for one of them: that of Saint Teresa of Jesus. A role she took on in the series “Teresa de Jesús”, a production filmed in 1984 for TVE, directed by Josefina Molina and with two exceptional scriptwriters: Carmen Martín Gaite and Víctor García de la Concha.

In an interview with La Vanguardia, the actress revealed why Teresa de Jesús won her over: “She also wanted to be an artist”. According to her, she had invested a lot of time and effort in preparing her character and that is why she knew her so well.

“I am still impressed by her message. I have studied St Teresa so much, I know her so well, that it doesn’t matter to me whether she is a saint or not. Whatever they say, she touched her feet on the ground,” she told the aforementioned media outlet. “When she went out on the streets to convince, she put on her feathers, make no doubt about it. She was the only one who lifted her veil to work and showed her face. She was a star”, she concluded.

Probably because of this affinity with Teresa, the woman, Concha Velasco’s interpretation – who conveyed all the greatness of this character, her inner conflicts and the difficulties she had to face – was so profound that it is practically impossible not to imagine the saint from Avila with the features of the actress from Valladolid.


The Avila of Teresa of Jesus

Of course, much of the filming for the series took place in the real-life settings of Teresa of Jesus herself, especially in Ávila. A good place to start our particular route through Teresian Avila is the Basilica of Santa Teresa, built on the birthplace of Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada (the saint’s secular name). The convent of La Encarnación is another obligatory stop on this route, as this is where the saint spent much of her monastic life. Of course, Avila’s impressive cathedral – considered the first to be built in the Gothic style in Spain – is another of the landmarks in a city full of buildings steeped in history.

The convent of La Encarnación, with the sculpture of Saint Teresa / Ávila Film Office

And it was not only Teresa of Jesus who contributed to the glory of Ávila. Isabella the Catholic spent part of her childhood there (she was born and raised in the province); Saint John of the Cross, the other great mystic contemporary of Saint Teresa, spent time in the city, sharing with her visions of their respective monastic orders; The famous Renaissance musician Tomás Luis de Victoria trained in Ávila cathedral, where concert series in his honour are still held; and the noucentista painter Guido Capproti produced most of his work in the capital of Ávila (today it can be seen in the palace of the Superunda). 

Although at the time “Teresa de Jesús” was filmed there was still no Ávila Film Office, the institution that facilitates filming in the Castilian capital was present at the filming of other later productions on the biography of Teresa of Ávila: Ray Loriga and Paz Vega’s “Teresa: el cuerpo de Cristo” (2007) and Paula Ortiz and Blanca Portillo’s 2023 film, which was released under the simple title of “Teresa”. 

Filming of “Teresa” in 2023/ Ávila Film Office

If you decide to visit the beautiful city of the saint, be sure to check out our article Ávila, the city of stars and stars – Spain Screen Tourism, in which we talk about all the audiovisual productions with which you can complete your screen tourism route. 


The Teresian Route through Spain

But if Saint Teresa was known for anything, it was for her continuous travels founding convents. Despite the precarious means of transport in the 15th century, she travelled to Segovia, Salamanca and Burgos, but she also reached Cáceres, Seville, Úbeda and Baeza (Jaén). 

In all these places it is possible to follow her trail through her convents, the churches she frequented and the monuments that still commemorate her today. And, of course, of the screen routes through the places where “Teresa of Jesus” and the other productions inspired by her life were filmed.

Cell in the convent of the Encarnación de Ávila/ Ávila Film Office

The mark that the role of her life left on the unforgettable Concha Velasco is attested to by the words she herself chose as her epitaph: “Nada te turbe, nada te espante, todo se pasa, Dios no se muda. Patience achieves everything; he who has God, lacks nothing. God alone is enough.

With the conviction that, wherever the actress is, she will be doing her particular screen route, from Spain Screen Grand Tour we dedicate this small tribute to her. 

By María Parcero

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