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500 Years of Teresa de Ávila
Although Teresa did not intend to become a nun, she eventually changed her mind and entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation in 1536. In Teresa’s day, most people recited existing prayers and observed mechanically the rituals of the Church. Her Uncle Pedro introduced her to Francisco Osuna’s Third Spiritual Alphabet, a book that acquainted her with a different kind of spiritual practice—one that stressed interiority and mental prayer.
In the mid-1550s, Teresa began to have intense supernatural experiences. Some dismissed her experiences as demonic, but her Jesuit confessors encouraged her to practice mental prayer and to meditate on the humanity of Christ, probably introducing her to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. On 24 August 1562, Teresa founded a new convent, San José. Known as Discalced Carmelites, the San José nuns remained cloistered and practiced mental prayer. That same year, Teresa finished the first draft of her Vida, which Fray Luis de León published in 1588.
Gianbattista Rossi, the Carmelite prior general, gave Teresa permission to establish convents for men as well as women. In 1567, she met John of the Cross, who helped found the first Discalced Carmelite friary at Duruelos. In 1575, Teresa made a foundation in Beas, where she met Jerónimo Gracián, on whose advice, she founded a convent in Seville. This provoked the anger of Rossi, who had given Teresa permission to found only in Castile. Her Cartas (Letters) were published in 1680 by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. The decree Pia consideration, issued by Pope Gregory XIII on 22 June 1580, finally made the Discalced Carmelites a separate province.
After Teresa’s death on October 15, 1582, disciples such as María de San José, Ana de Jesús, and Ana de San Bartolomé, carried the reform into Portugal, France, and the Low Countries. Today, Discalced Carmelite convents exist throughout the world.
Saint Teresa de Ávila, Reformer, Mystic, and Spiritual Guide
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). Los libros de la madre Teresa de Iesus. Salamanca: Guillelmo Foquel, 1588.
One of four extant copies in the U.S. and perhaps eight in the world of the extremely rare first edition of the works of Saint Teresa, originally edited and published by Fray Luis de León. Includes Camino de perfección (Way of Perfection), Avisos de la Madre Teresa de Jesús para sus monjas (Mother Teresa’s Advice for Her Nuns), Libro llamado Castillo Interior o Las Moradas (Book Called the Interior Castle or The Mansions), La Vida de la Madre Teresa (The Book of Her Life). The collection does not include El libro de las fundaciones (The Book of Foundations), which was published later.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). Exercitia spiritualia. (Spiritual Exercises). [Romae, Apud Antonium Bladum], 1548. First edition. Courtesy of the Woodstock Theological Library.
In 1554, after Teresa experienced a “conversion,” or intense, life-changing spiritual experience, before a statue of Christ, she began to have mystical visions and raptures. Her spiritual directors told her these phenomena came from the devil. The Jesuits established the seminary Colegio de San Gil in Avila that year. Teresa’s friend Guiomar de Ulloa took a Jesuit confessor and convinced Teresa to do the same. Teresa began to work with Diego de Cetina and Juan de Prádanos, two Jesuits who believed her experiences came from God and greatly influenced her spirituality, especially the importance she attached to the humanity of Christ. Many scholars believe she made the Spiritual Exercises with these confessors.
Teresa de Jesús. Facsimile clipped autograph mounted to card. [Germany? Late 19th century?]. Georgetown University Archives.
Acta publica canonizationis Sae. Thereseae a Iesu. Editio secunda. Lutetiae Parisiorum: Claudii Sonnii, & Petri Baillet, 1628.
Act of Canonization of Teresa de Avila, 1628. Teresa was beatified in 1614 and was canonized in 1622, just forty years after she died. Such an expedited canonization process was unusual. During the sixteenth century, Rome created few saints in order to counter the notion, propagated by Lutherans, that Catholics were superstitious and worshipped idols. However, after the Council of Trent, the Church began to promote the cult of saints as a means of propagating personal, affective spirituality among the people. Along with Teresa, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Isidro Labrador (Isidore the Farmer) were canonized in 1622. Open to the section on Teresa’s miracles.
Francisco de Borja (Borgia), S.J. (1510-1572). Signed letter from Francisco de Borja to his Jesuit brothers, dated 19 May 1551. Borja claims to be “the humblest” and “near to nothingness.” He compares himself in sinfulness to Cain and Esau. Before becoming a Jesuit, Borja, the fourth Duke of Gandía, was one of the most powerful men in Spain. While conveying the body of Isabel of Portugal for burial in Granada, Borja experienced a spiritual conversion and vowed to take religious vows after the death of his wife, Leonor de Castro Mello y Meneses. In 1546, following Doña Leonor’s death, Borja entered the Jesuit order and in 1565, became its third Father General. He met Teresa de Avila in 1554 or 1555, when he was visiting Avila, possibly for the opening of the Jesuit Colegio de San Gil. Teresa mentions that she met with him twice about her mystical experiences, and he assured her they came from God. Borja’s support helped legitimize Teresa’s claims in the eyes of Church authorities.
Teresa of Avila. Cartas de la Seráfica y Mística Doctora Santa Teresa de Iesvs. (Letters of the Seraphic and Mystical Doctor Saint Teresa of Jesus). Zaragoza: Diego Dormer: 1671.
The first collection of Teresa’s letters, compiled by Diego de la Presentación, O.C.D. and published by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Bishop of Osma (1600-1659). Palafox arranged the letters in order of the importance of the recipient, not chronologically. Thus, Teresa’s 1578 letters to Philip II come first. In addition, he eliminated those letters that deal with “domestic issues” (running convents, professions, financial complications) because they detract from the image of a saintly and obedient follower of Christ. Palafox wished to depict Teresa as a docile servant in the tradition of the Virgin Mary. Palafox also included his own commentaries. Open to Palafox's Notas.
Teresa the Writer: The Reform through Books
Teresa of Avila. Cartas. Commentary in t. 1 by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza; in t. 2 by Pedro de la Anunciación. Madrid: Joseph de Orga, 1752.
The book is opened to an engraving of Saint Teresa leading her nuns. Two volumes. Acquired by Georgetown University: 5/2010.
Teresa of Avila. Obras de la gloriosa Madre Santa Teresa de Jesus: fundadora de la Reforma de la Orden de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, de la Primera Observancia (The Works of the Glorious Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, Founder of the Reform of the Order of Our Lady of Carmen, of the First Observance). Brusselas: Francisco Foppens, 1674.
Early edition of Teresa’s works dedicated to Carlos II (1661-1700) and published in Brussels, then part of the Spanish Netherlands.
Vita S. Virginis Teresiœ a Iesv Ordinis Carmelitarvm excalceatorvm piae restavratricis (Life of the holy virgin Teresa of Jesus). Antwerp, 1630.
This volume contains three works, including this series of engravings by the famous Flemish engravers Galle and Collaert depicting scenes from the life of Saint Teresa most of which are described in her Vida.. The series was prepared for her beatification in 1614. Of the twenty-four engravings with accompanying text, 14 are signed by Adrian Collaert and one by C. Galle; the remaining nine are unsigned. Those displayed here are:
a. The Transverberation. In Vida Teresa describes a vision in which an angel pierces her heart with a flaming arrow.
b. Christ appears to Teresa and tells her, “Daughter, you are all mine, and I am all yours.” Note that the words are repeated in a band in the center of the engraving, a common occurrence in early modern prints.
c. Saint Teresa casting out demons.
d. A vision in which the Virgin gives Saint Teresa a rosary. In the background, Teresa gives workmen instructions for the first Discalced Carmelite convent, San José de Avila (1562), which God commanded her to construct.
e. One of Saint Teresa’s miracles. During the construction of San José, Teresa’s little nephew was mortally injured, and Teresa brought him back to life. The child was actually older than depicted here.
Teresa as a protective mother, shielding her nuns and friars under her mantle.
Teresa of Avila. Obras de la gloriosa Madre Santa Teresa de Jesús (The Works of the Glorious Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus). Madrid: Joseph de Orga, 1752.
Volume I contains Life and Way of Perfection. Note the copious notes in the wide margins—an example of eighteenth-century scholarship. Volume II contains lovely engravings depicting the life of Teresa.
The wide margins (which indicate that the owner was not concerned about the cost of paper) and exquisite engravings indicate that these were very expensive books. Open to an image of Teresa making her first foundation from the Book of Foundations.
Beyond Spain's Borders: Teresa in Translation
Teresa de Avila. Works. Bound manuscript, translated into English from Spanish by Hugh Francis Xavier Sempill
This manuscript is bound with a document on parchment signed by King Louis XV of France.
Lorenzo di Sant’Abondio. La trasformatione d’amore d’un aquila in colomba (The Transformation through Love of an Eagle into a Dove). Modona 1674.
Panegyric on the clothing ceremony of Eleonora d’Este (1643-1722) when she became a Carmelite nun. Daughter of the Duke of Modena, she entered the convent of St. Teresa on May 3, 1674 as Maria Francesca of the Holy Spirit. Written by the first prior of the convent at Trezzo sull’Adda, east of Milan. Beatified after her death, she was the aunt of Maria d’Este, second wife of James II.
[Teresa of Avila]. Harbet, Nicolas. La vie de la seraphique mere sainte Terese de Jesus, fondatrice des Carmes Déchaussez [et] des Carmelites Déchaussées: en figures, [et] en vers françois [et] latins: avec un Abbregé de l'histoire, une reflexion morale, [et] une resolution chrestienne sur châque figure (The Life of the Seraphic Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, Founder of the Discalced Carmelite Friars and Nuns: in images and French and Latin verse: with a synopsis of her story, a moral reflection, and a Christian resolution on each figure.) Grenoble: Laurens Gilibert … proche les RR.PP. Iesuites, 1678. “Reveuë, augmentée [et] corrigée.”
Illustrated with 55 copper engravings by Claude Brunant after R.A. Weigert. Dedication and plates by the editor, Claudine Brunand; French verse and some prose text perhaps by Martial de Saint Paulin; Latin odes by Nicolas Harbet. [Originally published: Lyon: Antoine Jullieron, 1670].
The beautiful, gilt-edged pages, the goatskin cover, and the fine engravings suggest that a wealthy bibliophile owned this book. In one image, the Virgin Mary nurses—that is, sustains—the young Teresa after Teresa’s mother dies. The sonnet on the facing page explains the situation:
At a very young age, Teresa loses her mother
Death, cruel death, takes her away.
Her eyes, raw from crying, offer us proof
Of the terrible pain of her bitter grief.
Nevertheless, virtue sweetens and tempers her suffering
And in the midst of this great misfortune that has just occurred,
One sees her raise her chaste eyes to Heaven,
Whence the succor she hopes for will soon come.
She obtains this succor from the Mother of God,
Who pledges to be hers always and everywhere,
Who enlightens and instructs her, and governs her life.
Ceaselessly Teresa receives signs of her friendship.
Her loss is actually fortunate and enviable,
Rather than a cause for pity.
Anastasio de la Cruz. Engravings 9 and 10 from Vita S.V. et M. Theresiae á Jesu Solis Zodiaco Parallela. Augsburg: Klauber workshop, n.d. [18th century]. Found laid into The works of the holy mother St. Teresa of Jesus [London?: s.n., 1675]..
These two engravings are from a series of twelve. One shows the Trasverberation. The other illustrates Biblical passages on the evils of gossip and the virtues of silence, perhaps an allusion to the campaign of calumny waged against Teresa and the reform by Calced Carmelites. Teresa wrote often against the evils of gossip and forbade idle talk in her convents.
Upper left side: From Psalm 139, Acuerunt linguas suas sicut
They have sharpened their tongues
DELIVER ME LORD/ from the evil man:/ rescue me from the unjust man./ Who have devised/ wickedness in their heart:/ all the day long they organize battles./ They have sharpened their tongues/ like a serpent./ The venom of asps is under their lips./ Guard me Lord from the hand of the sinner:/ and deliver me from unjust men./ who have devised to trip up my steps.
Upper right side: A possible reference to Proverbs 27.17
Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Lower right side: From Isaiah 53.7, Coram tondente se obmutescet
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, / and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, / so he opened not his mouth.
Teresa of Avila. The flaming hart, or, The life of the gloriovs S. Teresa. Antwerp: Johannes Meursius, 1642.
Translation, by Tobie Matthew, of La Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesus. Early English translation of Teresa’s Life, containing marginalia. After Henry VIII broke with Rome, English authorities considered treasonous any act of allegiance to the Pope. Many English Catholics fled to Antwerp, a Catholic territory under Spanish control and the center of the Catholic publishing industry.
Teresa of Avila. Diario cavato da i scritti di S.Teresa, gran maestra di Spirito: vtilissimo a chi desidera a fare profitto nella vita spiritual / scritto dal r. prete Giovanni Zucchetti; aggiuntoui gli atti interni di virtù con alcune esclamations à Dio praticati, e scritti dalla serafica verg (Daily Readings Taken from the Writings of Saint Teresa, a great teacher of spirituality: highly useful for whoever wants to profit from the spiritual life; written down by the reverend father Giovanni Zucchetti; also the internal acts of virtue with some exhortations to God the practicant can do; and writings from the seraphic virgin). Venice: Appresso Antonio Bosio, 1680.
With engraved frontispiece of Teresa and engraved portrait of John of the Cross. A daily prayer guide, probably owned by an Italian noblewoman, with excerpts from the works of Teresa de Avila. Also includes excerpts from John of the Cross. Open to an image of the Holy Spirit inspiring Saint Teresa as she dictates her thoughts to an angel. Because many priests thought that a woman could never possess the theological sophistication that Teresa displays in her writing, she is often depicted writing through the inspiration of God rather than as using her own ingenuity.
Teresa of Avila. Beschriivinghe van het casteel oft wooninghe van de ziele (Descriptions of the Interior Castle of the Soul). Antwerpen: Fransoys le Chien, 1650.
Den tweeden druck [first edition was 1608]. An early Flemish translation of The Interior Castle. Open to the Fifth Mansion, First Chapter.
Teresa of Avila. The Works of the Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus: Foundress of the Reformation of the Discalced Carmelites: divided into two parts. London?: s.n., 1675.
An early English translation of Teresa’s writings. The frontispiece depicts the Transverberation. The edition contains copious handwritten marginal notes and a list of errata.
Arnold van Westerhout (1651-1725). Vita effigiata della serafica vergine S. Teresa di Gesu, fondatrice dell'Ordine Carmelitano Scalzo (Illustrated Life of the Seraphic Virgin Saint Teresa of Jesus, Founder of the Order of Discalced Carmelites). Rome, 1716.
Westerhout was a Dutch engraver. Little is known about his life, but his collection of images of Teresa circulated widely. Courtesy of the Carmelitana Collection, Washington DC.
What She Read: Those Who Influenced Saint Teresa
Pedro de Alcántara (1499-1562). The Golden Treatise of Mentall Praier, 1632. The Scholar Press, 1977.
Like Teresa, Pedro de Alcántara believed in the value of mental prayer. This early English translation of his treatise on the subject shows that by the first decades of the seventeenth century, his influence had spread to England.
Casimiro de Sancta Maria Maddalena. Cronica della prinvincia de'Minori Osservanti Scalzi de S. Pietro. 1729.
An early Italian history of the Alcantarinos, the order founded by Pedro de Alcántara, in the Kingdom of Naples. This book is part of the Thatcher Collection at Georgetown.
Giovanni Clemente. Vita, virtv, e miracoli di San Pietro d’Alcantara (Life, virtues and miracles of Saint Peter of Alcántara). Venezia, 1712.
Pedro de Alcántara (1499-1562) was an enthusiastic supporter of Teresa’s reform. At the time Teresa met him, Pedro de Alcántara was already revered as a holy man. A Franciscan friar, he broke with his order, which he found too lax. After spending several years in solitude, he traveled barefoot to Rome to obtain permission from Pope Julius III to found male convents in Spain, where friars would follow a rigid regimen of austerity, mortifications, and mental prayer. His friars were known as Alcantarinos, and his reform spread rapidly throughout Spain and Portugal. Teresa met with him to discuss opposition to her plans to launch the reform, and in a letter dated 14 April 1562, he encouraged her to pursue the project in spite of the opposition of Church and local authorities. She founded the Discalced Carmelite Convent of Saint Joseph on 24 August 1562. Saint Teresa speaks of Pedro de Alcántara with admiration in her Vida.
Luis de Granada (1504-1588). Ecclesiasticae rhetoricae: sive, De ratione concionandi libri sex (Of the rhetoric of the Church, that is, of the nature of preaching Book 6). Venetiis: Apud Franciscum Zilettum, 1578.
Luis de Granada was one of Saint Teresa’s favorite authors. She was greatly distressed when some of his works appeared on the 1559 Index of Forbidden Works.
Exercises for the annual retreat of ten days for the use of the Carmelites. n.d.
Detailed rules for an annual retreat. From the library of the Carmelite Convent near Chichester in Sussex. The Carmel of Chichester dates to 1678. Originally located at Hoogstraet, intended for English women; moved to Dorset in 1794, then to Normandy in 1830, and to Chichester in 1870; closed in 1994. Acquired by Georgetown University 2013.
Luis de Granada. Los seis libros de la rhetorica eclesiastica, o, De la manera de predicar ... (The Six Books of Ecclesiastical Rhetoric or The Way to Preach ...). Barcelona: En la imprenta de Juan Jolis y Bernardo Pla, 1777.
Teresa would have read this book in an earlier Spanish translation, as she did not read Latin fluently.
Francisco de Osuna (1492 or 1497 – c. 1540). The Third Spiritual Alphabet. The Newman Bookshop: Westminster, MD, 1948.
A modern English translation of Osuna’s work. In 1538, when Teresa became seriously ill, her father sent her to Becedas to consult a famous healer. On the way, she stopped at the home of her uncle Pedro, who lent her a copy of Osuna’s Third Spiritual Alphabet. This was her introduction to interiority and mental prayer, which became the foundation of her approach to spirituality. When she launched her reform in 1562, periods for mental prayer were established as part of the schedule.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). Exercitia spiritualia S.P. Ignatii Loyolae, fundatoris Ordinis Societatis. (Spiritual Exercises of the Holy Father Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order). Antwerp, 1676.
The Spiritual Exercises are a group of meditations and contemplative practices developed by Saint Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, to help people develop a deeper relationship with God. They require participants to visualize a Biblical passage, engaging all their senses and placing themselves in the scene. This edition provides marginal notes and engravings illustrating Scriptural passages to aid in meditation. Open to an image of Christ walking on water.
Friends, Acquaintances, and Collaborators
John of the Cross. Les Oevvres Spirituelles dv B. Pere Jean de la Croix (The Spiritual Works of the Blessed Father John of the Cross). Paris, 1665.
John of the Cross (1542-1591). Obras espirituales que encaminan a una alma a la perfect vnion con Dios (Spiritual Works that lead a soul to perfect union with God). 1619.
The book is open to an engraving showing a painting of Jesus, his cross on his shoulder, inspiring the works of Saint John, which lie on the ground. The words of Jesus extend from the painting to John: Ioannes qvid vis pro laboris / Domine pati et contemni pro te (John, what will you have for your labor? / To suffer and be despised for thee, Lord). Notice the Renaissance structure in the background. Courtesy of the Carmelitana Collection, Washington D.C.
Jerónimo de la Madre de Dios Gracián. The Burning Lamp. Facsimile of 1635 edition of English translation of La lámpara encenida.
Jerónimo de la Madre de Dios Gracián. Mystica Theologia collegida de lo que escriuio S. Buenauentura del verdadero camino al Cielo… (Collected works on mystical theology written by Saint Bonaventure on the true path to Heaven). Brussels 1609.
Jerónimo de la Madre de Dios Gracián (1545-1614). Conceptos del Divino Amor (Concepts of Divine Love). Brussels 1612.
Along with John of the Cross, Jerónimo Gracián (Jerome Gratian) was Teresa’s main collaborator in the reform. She met him in Beas, where she took a vow of obedience to him for spiritual matters. It was he who suggested she found a convent in Seville, a project that led to Teresa’s rift with Rubeo, the Prior General of the order. Rubeo had not authorized Teresa to make foundations in Andalusia and viewed the Seville foundation as an act of disobedience. Due to his support of María de San José and Ana de Jesús during the “nuns’ revolt,” Gracián was viewed as something of a subversive. Nicolas Doria, then Discalced Carmelite provincial, had him expelled from the order, but the Pope later reinstated him, albeit as a Calced Carmelite to avoid conflicts with Doria’s followers. This was rather ironic, as Gracián had had many difficulties with the Calced Carmelites during Teresa’s lifetime. Conceptos del Divino Amor was condemned by the Inquisition and published two years before Gracián’s death. This extremely rare volume—it is the only known privately owned copy—contains copious printed marginal notes. Itwas bound in goatskin in 1945 by the renowned Catalan bookbinder Emilio Brugalla. Note the gilt edges and gilt stamp. The owner was a famous collector, Isidoro Fernández. The gilt stamp on the cover, which also appears on the inside front cover, is his emblem.
Compendium vitae, virtutum, et miraculorum, necnon actorum in causa canonizationis B. Joannis à Cruce: Ordinis Carmelitarum Excalceatorum. (Compendium of the Life, Virtues, and Miracles, as well as the Acts [Documentation] for the Cause of the Canonization of Blessed John of the Cross, of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Romæ: Typis Rev. Cameræ Apostolicæ, 1726.
Canonization documents for John of the Cross (1542-1591). He was not canonized until 1726, a century after Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, and Francis Xavier. A close friend of Teresa’s, John was instrumental in the spread of the reform and was co-founder of the first Discalced friary in Duruelos, with Antonio de Jesús (Heredia). He is considered one of the greatest mystical poets and intellectuals of early modern Spain.
The First Biographies of Saint Teresa
Belchior de Santa Anna (1570?-1635). Chronica de Carmelitas descalços, particular do reyno de Portugal, e prouincia de Sam Felippe / pello P. Fr. Belchior de S. Anna, leitor de theologia no seu Collegio de Coimbra ; chronista, e indigno filho da mesma Prouincia, & natural do lugar do Grajal (Chronicle of the Discalced Carmelites, in particular of the Kingdom of Portugal, province of Saint Philip). Lisboa: Officina de Henrique Valente de Oliueira, 1657-.
A history of the Discalced Carmelites from the Portuguese perspective. Unlike other chronicles, this one includes a lengthy segment on María de San José, founder of the first Discalced Carmel in Portugal. Because María had opposed Doria’s efforts to change the Constitutions of the order, she was omitted from most Carmelite histories and relegated to obscurity, until recently. The date of birth supplied for Fray Belchior is 1602, which is obviously wrong. Belchior claimed to be a friend and correspondent of María de San José, who died in 1604.
Diego de Yepes. Vita della santa Madre Teresa de Gesu, fondatrice della nuova riforma dell'ordine degli Scalzi di Nostra Signora del Carmine / Scritta in lingua Castigliana da Mosignore [sic] Illustrissimo e Reverendissimo Don Diego di Yepes, Vescovo di Tarazona, Confessore della Maestà del Rè Don Filippo Secondo, e Direttore per molti anni della medesima Santa: e nuovamente tradotta in Italiano per commessione d' un suo divoto dall'Abate Giuseppe de Trosca: e dedicata al Gloriossismo Patriarca San Giuseppe (Life of the Saint Mother Teresa of Jesus).Rimino: Giuseppe Albertini, 1733.
An early eighteenth-century Italian translation of the 1606 biography of Saint Teresa, originally published in Spanish. See Item 36.
Diego de Yepes (1530 or 1531-1614). Vida, virtudes, y milagros de la bien auenturada Virgen Teresa de Iesus, madre y fundadora de la nueua reformacion de la Orden de los Descalços y Descalças de Nuestra Senora del Carmen (Life, Virtues, and Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Teresa of Jesus). Zaragoza: Angelo Tauanno, 1606.
Diego de Chaves y las Casas took the name Diego de Yepes upon entering the Hieronymites (Order of Saint Jerome) in 1550. He was Teresa’s confessor and later, King Philip II’s. Although Fray Luis published a short biography of Teresa in the 1588 edition of her works, Diego de Yepes’ is considered the second complete biography, after Ribera’s.
Ildefonso di San Luigi (1724-1792). Vita della ven. serva di Dio suor Maria Agnese di Gesù: carmelitana scalza: fondatrice del Monastero di S. Teresa di Firenze, al secolo donna Luisa Lomellini Genovese (Life of the venerable servant of God: Discalced Carmelite, founder of the Monastery of Saint Teresa in Florence, sister María Agnes of Jesus, in the secular world known as Luisa Lomellini Genovese). Firenze: Nella stampería di Pietro Gaet. Viviani, 1762.
This book contains copious footnotes and is quite complex in its physical composition and printing.
Francisco de Ribera, S.J. Het leven der moerder Terese van Iesus (The Life of Mother Teresa de Jesus). Antwerp: Ioach Trognesivs, 1620.
Flemish edition of Ribera’s biography of Saint Teresa. Note the printer’s seal representing the four elements: fire, water, wind and air.
Courtesy of the Carmelitana Collection, Washington, D.C.
Francisco de Ribera, S.J. (1537-1591), Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesús (The Life of Mother Teresa of Jesus). Madrid: Francisco Lizcano, 1863.
Courtesy of the Carmelitana Collection, Washington DC.
Ribera wrote his Vida de la Madre Teresa de Jesús, the first biography of the future saint, in 1590. Ribera was a Jesuit theologian and one of Teresa’s confessors.
Julián Luis María Arranz. Decena Sacra al Santa Teresa de Jesus (Madrid 1839). A “Decena” (10 days of prayer) taken from the writings of Saint Teresa.
Julián de Avila. Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesús (Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus). Madrid: 1881.
Written around the same time as Ribera’s and Yepes’ biographies of Saint Teresa, this treasure remained unpublished until three hundred years after Saint Teresa’s death. Penned by Teresa’s friend, chaplain, and traveling companion Fray Julián de Avila, this treasure contains intimate eyewitness observations not included in in Teresa’s own writing or in other biographies. The French scholar A. Le Rebours discovered it on a research trip in 1866. He sent it to his colleague Francisco Teodoro Mosquera, and it originally appeared in 1881 in the edition by Don Vicente de la Fuente, prepared for the third centenary of Teresa’s death.
Teresa's Women Friends and Followers
Anne of St. Bartholomew (1549-1626), Mother, 1550-1626. The life of V.M. Anne of Saint Bartholomew, a Carmelite Religious, written by herself in obedience to her superiors. Manuscript, 1837.
Contemporary inscription and book label of the North Presentation Convent, Cork. This manuscript translation into English of the Vida of Anne of St. Bartholomew (Ana de San Bartolomé) is extremely rare and one of very few nineteenth-century translations of this work. (There are a couple of such translations into French and Dutch.) It was produced in a convent, probably for the edification of nuns. Ana was Teresa’s close friend, her nurse, and finally her amanuensis. Along with Ana de Jesús, she brought the Discalced reform from Spain into France and the Low Countries. She was very helpful to Englishwomen anxious to found Carmelite convents in Flanders. John Thatcher Collection.
Margaret of Jesus (1625-1679). Biography, unpublished. Circa 1880s. Entitled "The Life of the Venerable Mother Margaret of Jesus. Religious of the Reformed Order of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel. Written by her Ghostly Father Mr. Edmund Bedingfield, Canon of the Collegiate Church of St. Gummar & Confessor to the English Teresians in the City of Lierre (Belgium)."
This manuscript biography of Margaret of Jesus (Mostyn) was recorded at the command of her confessor and preserved by her community, originally located in Lierre, on the outskirts of Antwerp, and in 1830 relocated to Darlington, England.
Francisco de Acosta. Vida prodigiosa, y heroicas virtudes de la venerable madre Maria de Iesus, religiosa Carmelita Descalça de Conuento de San Ioseph, y Santa Teresa de la imperial ciudad de Toledo (Extraordinary life and heroic virtues of the venerable mother María de Jesus, Discalced Carmelite nun of the Convent of Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa, in the Imperial City of Toledo). Madrid: Domingo Garcia y Morràs, 1648.
Although in poor condition, this book provides important information about the development of the reform. María de Jesús (1602-1665) was a nun in the convent founded by Teresa in Toledo. By 1648, twenty-two years after Teresa’s canonization, the convent was called Convento de San José y Santa Teresa. The book’s author, Francisco de Acosta, was an Augustinian, as was Fray Luis de León, editor of the first edition of Teresa’s works. The woodcut shows the Discalced Carmelite María de Jesús in Toledo.
Alonso de San Jerónimo. Vida virtudes y milagros de la prodigiosa virgen, y madre Ana de San Agustin, carmelita descalza: fundadora del Convento de Valera, y compañera de nuestra madre Santa Teresa de Iesus en la fundacion de Villanueva de Laiara (Life, virtues and miracles of the extraordinary virgin and mother Ana de San Agustín, Discalced Carmelite: Foundress of the Convent of Valera and companion to our mother Saint Teresa of Jesus in the foundation of Villanueva de La Jara). Madrid: Francisco Nieto, 1668.
Ana de San Agustín (1555-1624) entered the Discalced Carmelite order in 1575 and devoted her life to the reform. She helped Teresa found convents in Villanueva de la Jara and Valera de Abajo. She experienced visions, which her superiors ordered her to record.
Lorenzo di Sant’Abondio. La trasformatione d’amore d’un aquila in colomba (The Transformation through Love of an Eagle into a Dove). Modona 1674. Panegyric on the clothing ceremony of Eleonora d’Este (1643-1722) when she became a Carmelite nun. Daughter of the Duke of Modena, she entered the convent of St. Teresa on May 3, 1674 as Maria Francesca of the Holy Spirit. Written by the first prior of the convent at Trezzo sull’Adda, east of Milan. Beatified after her death, she was the aunt of Maria d’Este, second wife of James II.
Jean-François Senault. 1601-1672. La vie de la mère Magdeleine de S. Ioseph: religieuse carmélite déchaussée, de la premiere regle selon la reforme de Sainte Therese. Nouvelle edition reveuë [et] augmentée (Life of Mother Magdeleine de Saint Joseph, Discalced Carmelite of the First Order, according to the reform made by Saint Teresa. New edition, revised and expanded). Paris: Pierre Le Petit, imprimeur [et] libraire ordinaire du Roy, 1670.
Magdeleine de Saint Joseph (1578-1637) was novice mistress under Ana de San Bartolomé. Later, she became the first French prioress of the Paris Carmel. (The two previous ones, Ana de Jesús and Ana de San Bartolomé, were Spanish).
Buzy, Denis. Pensées [Thoughts] de Sr. Marie de Jesus Crucifié (1846-1876). Paris: Saint-Paul, 1919.
Mariam Baouardy (Marie de Jésus Crucifié) was the daughter of Greek Catholic parents originally from Syria and Lebanon. She resisted forced conversion to Islam and became a Discalced Carmelite nun of the Melkite Greek Catholic church. Known for her service to the poor, she was canonized on 17 May 2015 with the strong support of Pope Francis.
The Reform Expands: New Foundations
Elia di Santa Teresa. La diletta del crocifisso: vita della venerabile madre suor Maria degli Angioli, religiosa nel Monisterio di Santa Cristina delle Carmelitane Scalze di quest’Augusta. (The Delights of the Crucifix, the Life of Sister Mary of the Angels, of the Discalced Carmelite convent of Turin). Venezia, 1729.
Although this book bears the name of a priest as the author, it may have been written, at least in part, by Sister Maria degli Angioli herself. Many books about women were actually memoirs or vite, but it was considered unseemly for nuns to publish then under their own names. Note the copious printed notes in the margins and that the book includes an index.
Elia di Santa Teresa. La diletta del crocifisso: vita della venerabile madre suor Maria degli Angioli, religiosa nel Monisterio di Santa Cristina delle Carmelitane Scalze di Torino. Venezia: Presso Andrea Poletti, 1735.
This later edition is open to the index.
Diego de Torres Villarroel. (1693?-1770). Vida exemplar, virtudes heroicas, y singulares recibos de la venerable madre Gregoria Francisca de Santa Theresa: carmelita descalza, en el Convento de Sevilla: en el siglo doña Gregoria Francisca de la Parra Queinoge (The exemplary life, heroic virtues, and singular gifts of the venerable Mother Gregoria Francisca de Santa Theresa: Discalced Carmelite in the Seville convent, in the outside [secular] world known as Gregoria Francisca de la Parra Queinoge). Salamanca: Imprenta de Antonio Villargordo, 1752. [Tomo 11 of: Libros en que estan reatados diferentes quadernos physicos, medicos, astrologicos, poeticos, morales y misticos.]
One of the best known Spanish writers of the eighteenth century, Torres Villarroel was a professor of mathematics, but is best known for his satires. A priest, he also wrote philosophical and religious works.
Mary Margaret of the Angels (1731- ?). Manuscript biography. Entitled "The Life of Rev. Mother Mary Margaret of the Angels. Professed Nun of the English Carmelites founded by Lady Mary Lovell at Antwerp in 1619."
Mary Margaret of the Angels (born Mary Brent) was one of several nuns who traveled from Maryland to join the Discalced Carmel in Antwerp.
Mary Teresa of Our Blessed Lady. Letter to an unidentified priest inquiring about the manuscript of the Life of Margaret of Jesus.
Miguel Batista de Lanuza. Vida de la Sierva de Dios, Francisca del Santissimo Sacramento (Life of the Servant of God, Francisca of the Most Holy Sacrament). Pamplona: Imprenta Joseph Joachin Martinez, 1727.
The Catalan Discalced Carmelite Francisca del Santísimo Sacramento was known for her beauty. She was very vain and irritable, so God punished her and made her humble. This book, written by a Knight of the Order of Santiago, was compiled from the notes in her Holy Exercises and explains the prayers and penances she did for souls in purgatory. It also describes the mystical favors that Sister Francisca received. The book is open to Chapter VI, in which she asks Saint Teresa to maintain in purgatory those of her friars and nuns who were lax in their observance of the rules set forth in the Constitutions. The book contains copious printed marginal notes.
Manrique, Angel, ca. 1577-1649. La venerable madre Ana de Iesus: discipula, y compañera de la S.M. Teresa de Iesus, y principal aumento de su orden : fundadora de Francia, y Flandes: dirigida a la serma. infanta d. Isabel Clara Eugenia (The Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus: disciple, and companion of the Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus, and principal promoter of her order: foundress of convents in France and Flanders, dedicated to the most serene Princess Doña Isabel Clara Eugenia). En Bruselas: En casa de Lucas de Meerbeeck, 1632.
Ana de Jesús (1545-1621) was another of Teresa’s close friends, although she and Teresa had a falling out at the end of the saint’s life. When, after Teresa’s death, Nicolas Doria tried to change the Constitutions to deprive prioresses of much of the power that Teresa had given them, Ana and María de San José appealed to the Pope, in what was to become known as “the nuns’ revolt.” Although the Pope sided with the nuns, Doria eventually pushed through his revisions. In 1604 Ana led a group of nuns to Paris to make the first Discalced foundation in France. She also made foundations in Pontoise and Dijon. She then left for the Low Countries, where she founded the Discalced convent in Brussels, Louvain, and Mons.
María de San José (1548-1603). Libro de recreaciones, Ramillete de mirra, Avisos, Máximas [Book for the Hour of Recreation, Bouquet of Myrrh, Notices, Maxims]. Ed. Silverio de Sta. Teresa, C.D. Burgos: Monte Carmelo, 1913.
María de San José (Salazar) was one of Teresa’s closest friends. Teresa wrote that after she died, María should be named Foundress of the order. However, María and Ana de Jesús opposed Nicolas Doria’s efforts to revise the Constitutions of the order. After Doria died, one of his successors had her imprisoned and eventually exiled to a remote convent, where she died. She was ignored in early chronicles of the order, except the one in Portuguese by Belchior de Santa Anna. She started to attract critical attention early in the twentieth century, when this volume was published. Courtesy of the Carmelitana Collection, Washington, D.C.
The Discalced Reform in the New World
Jose Maria de San Pedro. Apología de Santa Teresa de Jesús (Apologia for Saint Teresa of Jesus). Mexico: En la oficina de Ontiveros: 1812.
The book is open to a lovely engraving of Teresa and Jesus in a garden. The Scripture verse cited is Ecclesiastes 24:42, but the image of the garden also appears prominently in Teresa’s Vida. Emanating from Teresa’s heart is the word “Voluntad” (Will). Above her, two doves, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, carry the words “Memoria” and “Entendimiento” (Memory, Understanding). Will, memory and understanding are the three faculties of the mind.
Josefa de la Providencia. Relación del origen y fundación del Monasterio del señor San Joaquín de religiosas Nazarenas Carmelitas Descalzas de esta ciudad de Lima: contenida en algunos apuntes de la vida y virtudes de la venerable madre Antonia Lucia del Espíritu Santo, fundadora del instituto Nazareno (Account of the beginnings and foundation of the Monastery of the Lord, Saint Joachim of the Nazarene Discalced Carmelites, of this city of Lima: contained in the notes about the life and virtues of the venerable Mother Antonia Lucia of the Holy Spirit, Foundress of the Nazarene Institute). Lima : En la Imprenta Real de los Niños Expósitos, 1793.
Early document evincing the spread of the Discalced Carmelite reform to the Americas.
Gómez de la Parra, José. Fundación y primero siglo del muy religioso convento de Sr. S. Joseph de religiosas carmelitas descalzas de la ciudad de Puebla de los ángeles, en la Nueva España (Foundation and first one hundred years of the very religious convent of Saint Joseph, of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the City of Puebla of the Angels, in New Spain). Puebla, 1732.
A history of the first Discalced Carmelite convent in New Spain (established 1604), including the lives of 51 nuns.
Carmel, the ceremonies of professions, and of veiling novices of the Discalced Carmelites of St. Teresa’s Reform. New York: Catholic Publication Society Co., for the convent of Discalced Carmelites of Baltimore, 1886.
A nineteenth-century manual of the profession and veiling ceremony for the first Discalced Carmelite convent in the United States.
Exercises for the annual retreat of ten days for the use of the Carmelites. n.d.
Detailed rules for an annual retreat. From the library of the Carmelite Convent near Chichester in Sussex. The Carmel of Chichester dates to 1678. Originally located at Hoogstraet, intended for English women; moved to Dorset in 1794, then to Normandy in 1830, and to Chichester in 1870; closed in 1994. Acquired by Georgetown University 2013.
Laurence J. Kelly, 1870-1955. A Southern Maryland Shrine. [Maryland?: s.n., 1940] The Discalced Carmelite convent in Port Tobacco, Maryland, founded in 1790, was the first community of nuns in the newly independent United States. The group later separated into the Port Tobacco community and the Baltimore community. The first American Carmelites came from the English Discalced Carmelite community in Antwerp, founded with the help of Ana de San Bartolomé and Ana de Jesús.
Moving Forward: The Twentieth Century and Beyond
Bonifacio Moral. Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesús: para uso del pueblo (Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus: for the use of the people). Valladolid: Leonardo Miñón, 1890.
A nineteenth-century mass-produced edition of Teresa de Avila’s Vida. The title page states that the book is para el uso del pueblo, “for the use of the people.” The publishers have made an effort to create an attractive volume, but the paper and binding are low quality. The book illustrates efforts to make Teresa’s teachings available to everyone.
Teresa of Avila. Constitutions de sainte Thérèse publiées pour la première fois en France par le Père Marcel Bouix (Saint Teresa’s Constitutions, published for the first time in France by Father Marcel Bouix). Gauthier-Villars, 1885.
Saint Teresa wrote the Constitutions of the Order in 1562. They were approved by the Pope and by the General of the Order, Gianbattista Rossi (known as Rubeo in Spain). The Constitutions were revised in 1581 at the chapter meeting in Alcalá. Although Teresa was unable to attend due to age and poor health, her friend and adviser Fray Jerónimo Gracián (1545-1614), first Provincial of the Discalced Carmelites, took care that all of the major provisions of the earlier version were retained. When Ana de Jesús (1545-1621) traveled to Paris to found the first Discalced convent in France, she brought the 1581 Constitutions with her. Despite the efforts of Nicolas Doria, the second Provincial, to radically change the Constitutions, Ana had the 1581 version circulated in France. Marcel Bouix had them published in 1885 for the use of all Discalced Carmelite convents in the country.
Goigs de la Gloriosa Verge y Doctora Santa Teresa de Jesús (Joys of the Glorious Virgin and Doctor Saint Teresa of Jesus). Vilafranca: Estamps de 'n Pere Alagret y Vilaró, n.d.
Broadside in Catalan.
Giuseppe Frassinetti. Santa Teresa’s Pater Noster: A treatise on prayer. London: Burns Oates; New York: Catholic Publication Society, 1887.
A translation of and commentary on Saint Teresa’s short treatise on the Pater Noster.
An edition of Teresa’s treatise on the Pater Noster prepared by the Carmelite monastery in Flemington, New Jersey, prepared for her fourth centenary.
William Thomas Walsh (1891-1949). Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1943.
American scholar William Thomas Walsh wrote about the Inquisition, the Crusades, and Isabel of Castile in addition to Teresa de Avila. His Saint Teresa of Avila was considered the definitive biography of Teresa for decades. However, in 1986, Teófanes Egido published conclusive proof of Teresa’s converso background and merchant-class upbringing, undermining Walsh’s insistence on her nobility and purity of linage. Many scholars have discredited Walsh due to the anti-Semitic opinions he expresses in Isabel of Spain, the Last Crusader and Characters of the Inquisition.
Edgar Allison Peers (1891-1952). Handbook to the Life and Times of Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross. London: Burns & Oates, 1954.
During the first part of the twentieth century, the British scholar E.A. Peers was considered the foremost authority on the Spanish mystics. Peers’ studies of the mystics and his editions of the works of Teresa de Avila and John of the Cross were standard texts for students of mysticism. They are still considered classics.
Curated by Professor Bárbara Mujica, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University
Assisted by: John Buchtel, Director, The Booth Family Center for Special Collections; Ethan Henderson, Rare Books Curator; Stephanie Hughes, Communications and Projects Coordinator, Special Collections; Jennifer Smith, Coordinator of Communications, Outreach and Programming, Library; Grace S. McKinney, Program & Events Coordinator, Library; Ross M. Karlan (G’2019), Assistant to the Curator; David Hagen, Graphic Artist and Photographer, Library
With special thanks to
Artemis Kirk, University Librarian; Rev. Leon Hooper, S.J., Director of the Woodstock Theological Library, Georgetown University; Patricia O’Callahan, Librarian, the Carmelitana Collection, Whitefriars Hall, Washington, D.C.; Chester L. Gillis, Dean, Georgetown College, Georgetown University; Gwen Kirkpatrick, Chair, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University