Teresa of Avila

By Madisyn Simpson

Background of her Life

Teresa was born on March 28, 1515 in Avila Spain. Her mother's name was Beatriz de Ahumada and her father was Alfonso de Cepeda. Teresa lived a good majority of her life in Avila. She left her home when she was older to participate in convents, study the lives of saints, pursue religious vocations, and spread her beliefs in mental prayer and visions. She returns to Avila more than once during her life time, making this the place she spent most of her life at.

Her Education and Training

Teresa was a religious reformer who was very involved in mental prayer. During her childhood, Teresa joined her first convent. This caused her to want to become a nun. As Teresa grew older, she started developing mental prayer. This was a huge part of Teresa's life and what made her so unique. Teresa was fascinated with learning spiritual vocations. She established many convents and lived in poverty and self denial.

Teresa's Life

Many people are fascinated with Teresa's ability to combine her contemplative lifestyle with the activities of daily life. When Teresa was younger her father cared for a secret Jew. This deprived Teresa of the social status of having a pure background. She was very involved in mental prayer and mystical experiences. In her teens, Teresa became very interested in romance and fashion, but was sent to a convent where this changed dramatically. She became a nun and believed that she and every other nun had to live in total poverty and could not live with the villagers. Teresa became known for the voices and visions inside her head. A famous vision of hers is her heart getting pierced by an object and there being fire. She interpreted this as her heart being on fire for her love of God. When she died, however she is said to have had a scar on her heart. Teresa established may convents for nuns and even a few for men who wanted to learn her religious ways. She led a group of nuns who wanted to follow primitive Carmelite traditions.

Teresa's Work

Teresa wrote many books of spirituality for churches and developed the Discalced Carmelites, which is an order devoted to quiet prayer. poverty, and austerity. She wrote many books displaying her beliefs and religion. Her most famous are Life, Way of Perfection, The Foundation, and Interior Castle.

Connection to Rennaissance

Teresa played a huge role in Skepticism. Many of her beliefs and ideas were frowned upon by people in the villages. Teresa promoted her mystical experiences, which were feared by many people. They were said to be works of the Devil and many people had little tolerance for them. There was even a revolt against her Discalced Carmelites. Some people didn't agree with her choice to live in poverty and self denial. Her religious beliefs and traditions weren't accepted by everyone, but that didn't stop her. She is also a big part of Individualism. Teresa wrote books explaining her beliefs and religion to other people. She was sworn to a life of poverty, silence, self denial, and abstinence. Teresa was the first women to write systematically and at length about spiritual life. She lived the life of a nun and devoted herself to her religion.


"....I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions." (Interior Castle)

Background Information

This book is called Interior Castle and was written in 1577 by Teresa of Avila. This work can be found in many kinds of books such as hardcover or audio. Many websites have information and summaries about this book if u wanted to know some additional information about the work or Teresa.


This book is the source of Teresa's more mature spiritual thoughts. It shares the development of mental prayer and is revolved around a metaphor. Teresa compares the soul to a crystal castle. The human has to go through a journey of passing through many apartments by reciting prayers in order to get to the castle. Teresa stresses the importance of comprehending the full beauty of the castle, but also emphasizes that it is impossible. She uses immanent transcendence in her book by aligning the metaphor of the soul with the body's relationship to the sole. Her book shares the importance of prayer and is a creative piece of literature. This book helps Teresa spread her beliefs and ideas with more people.

My Interests

I found this piece to be very interesting because it gave me more of a feel for Teresa's personality and intelligence. I thought it was really cool how she focused her book on a metaphor. Her creativity is very impressive and her originality was shown in this piece of work. I thought the metaphor was very creative and accurate. I admire her individuality and her beliefs and ideas were very interesting. I found this piece of literature to be a great representation of Teresa as a human because it combined her beliefs, creativity, and religion into one book. I found this to be a very interesting piece of writing that should be shared with many people.

Linking to the Rennaissance

I found this piece to be linked mostly to Humanism because it is a great example of flexible thinking. The Interior Castle revolves around the metaphor of the soul being compared to a crystal castle. This is a piece of literature that's displays humans being rational beings by knowing that it is impossible to see the full beauty of the soul. Literature was a huge part of Humanism and it emphasizes the individual. It shares Teresa's beliefs and shows her intelligence and creativity. This piece of literature revolves around the human being trying to see the full beauty of the soul.


Anderson, Mary Margaret. "Thy word in me: on the prayer of union in St. Teresa of Avila's

Interior Castle *." Harvard Theological Review 99.3 (2006): 329+. Biography in Context. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.

"Teresa of Avila." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Biography in Context. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.