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St Teresa of Ávila

(1515—1582) Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic


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(1515–82),

the commonly used name of St Teresa of Jesus, Spanish mystic. She entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation (‘Mitigated Observance’) at Ávila in 1535, but it was not until 1555 that she was finally converted to a life of perfection. Her mystic life began soon afterwards with Divine locutions, her first ecstasy, and an intellectual vision of Christ. Despite opposition, in 1562 she founded the convent of St Joseph at Ávila, where the primitive rule was observed. Here she began The Way of Perfection (for her nuns), having recently completed her Life, a spiritual autobiography. From 1567 she was engaged in establishing houses of the primitive rule (‘Discalced Carmelites’) for both nuns and friars, helped by St John of the Cross. At the same time her own religious life deepened until it reached the state of ‘spiritual marriage’ (1572). She wrote Foundations, The Interior Castle, several smaller works, and some poetry. Her influence as a spiritual writer was epoch-making, because she was the first to point to the existence of states of prayer intermediate between discursive meditation and ecstasy and to give a systematic description of the entire life of prayer from meditation to the so-called mystic marriage. She combined mystic experience with ceaseless activity. Feast day, 15 Oct.

Subjects: Christianity — Early Modern History (1500 to 1700).


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