St. Teresa of Ávila

Juan de Rojas y Ausa (1622–1685).
Representaciones de la verdad vestida, misticas, morales, y alegoricas, sobre las siete moradas de Santa Teresa de Jesus.
Madrid: Antonio Gonçalez de Reyes, 1679. (BRB0078)

St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) was one of the most influential religious figures of sixteenth-century Spain. After joining the Carmelite convent in Ávila she experienced a spiritual conversion that led to a life of intense prayer and strict self-deprivation. In 1562 she founded the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at Ávila. Her monastic reforms faced strong opposition from the Carmelite Order, and the Inquisition investigated her seven times, but her doctrinal position and irreproachable lifestyle prevailed. Her most influential writings include the Way of Perfection, the Book of Foundations, and The Interior Castle. This last work described “siete moradas” (seven dwelling places) representing the successive levels of salvation.

This commentary on St. Teresa’s “seven dwelling places” from The Interior Castle is illustrated with fifteen allegorical engravings. The first of these images portrays St. Teresa and the seven dwelling places: the lowest room is where the sinner enters; the second is accessible by prayer; the third requires an exemplary life; in the fourth God’s presence is welcomed; in the fifth betrothal to God occurs; in the sixth God’s love is accepted; and in the seventh the glory of spiritual union with God is found. However, instead of illustrating the specific meaning of each level of the castle, the engraver depicted a tower with seven chambers in which seven birds, each representing the soul, escape from their earthly predators by flying toward the sun, an image of heaven.

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Women of the Reformation Era
St. Teresa of Ávila