Above is a painting that features the Catholic nun and mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila (c. 1515-1582). Unfortunately, the artist of the work has not been discovered, and little information is known about the piece except that it was likely produced in the 17th century and that the anonymous artist drew inspiration from an earlier painting by José de Ribera (c. 1591-1652). As is portrayed in the artwork, St. Teresa of Avila was a woman prone to incredibly vivid visions of God and the spiritual realm. Similarly hinted at by the quill and books included in the piece is the fact that Teresa was a writer who, thankfully for us, recorded her experiences and theological insights for the benefit of her peers and future generations. One example of St. Tersa’s dramatic spiritual experiences is this passage from her book, Interior Castle:
“My head sounds just as if it were full of brimming rivers, and then as if all the water in those rivers came suddenly rushing downward; and a host of little birds seem to be whistling, not in the ears, but in the upper part of the head, where the higher part of the soul is said to be; I have held this view for a long time, for the spirit seems to move upward with great velocity” (Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, chapter 1).
For an in-depth biography about Saint Teresa of Avila, check out our article, HERE.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, translated by E. Allison Peers. New York: Dover Publications, 2007.