The Convent of St. Teresa is one of two main destinations for Catholic pilgrims to Ávila. The 17th-century convent was built after the canonization of St. Teresa (1515-82) over the house where she was born. It contains her relics, along with those of her friend St. John of the Cross, in a small museum.
History of Convento de Santa Teresa
Saint Teresa (1515-1582) was born into a noble family of Ávila on March 28, 1515. Religiously inclined from a young age, Teresa was fascinated by the lives of the saints and ran away several times to seek martyrdom at the hands of the Moors. The "Four Posts" monument on the hill above Ávila marks the spot where her father brought her back at the age of seven.
In 1534, at the age of 19, Teresa left home to join the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila. In the cloister, Teresa practiced severe asceticism and mystical contemplation.
St. Teresa found the Carmelite order to be too worldly, and she worked as a reformer of the order for much of her life. In 1562, she founded a new convent in Ávila called St. Joseph's, and moved there in 1563. She wrote a "Constitution" enforcing strict asceticism.
For the first five years in her new convent, St. Teresa devoted herself entirely to spiritual contemplation and mysticism. St. Teresa experienced many visions and mystical ecstasies, the most famous of which is the "transverberation of the heart," which she described in her Autobiography:
This event inspired one of Bernini's most famous sculptures, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, located in Rome. Teresa's writings during this period include her Autobiography and the Camino de Perfección (Way of Perfection).
In 1567, Teresa was granted permission by the Carmelite general to establish more Carmelite convents. Shortly thereafter, Teresa began making long journeys throughout Spain, reforming old convents and founding new ones. She founded 16 new convents during her 20 years of reform activity.
During one of her journeys, Teresa met St. John of the Cross, who became her spiritual advisor. He joined her in her reforming efforts and paralleled her work with Carmelite nuns among Carmelite monks.
In 1577, Teresa wrote The Interior Castle. This work compares the contemplative soul to a castle with seven successive interior courts, or chambers, analogous to the seven heavens. (This is represented visually on the courtyard of the Monasterio de la Encarnacion.)
St. Teresa died from illness on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582. Many miracles and legends have been associated with St. Teresa since her death. The night she died, her monastic cell back in Ávila was said to fill with a pleasant fragrance. When her body was exhumed 330 years later, her coffin emitted the same heavenly fragrance. This miracle is known in Catholicism as the "odor of sanctity."
It is also said that when Teresa's body was examined upon her death, she was found to have a perforation of the heart, reflecting her most famous mystical experience. According to another legend, a hand severed from St. Teresa's body could perform miracles.
St. Teresa has been highly revered within Catholicism ever since. In 1622, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV at the same time as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. In 1817, the Cortes declared St. Teresa the patron saint of Spain. In 1970, Pope Paul VI gave St. Teresa the honorific title "Doctor of the Church." She was the first woman in Catholic history to receive that title.
The Convent of St. Teresa, which belongs to the Order of Carmelitas Descalzos (Barefoot Carmelites), was built between 1629 and 1636 under the patronage of the bishop of Ávila, Márquez de Gaceta.
What to See at Convento de Santa Teresa
The Convento de Santa Teresa (Convent of St. Teresa) is the primary shrine of St. Teresa in Ávila. Located on the Plaza de la Santa, it stands over the site of Teresa's birth.
It is an active convent and much of it remains closed to visitors, but pilgrims can visit the site of Teresa's birthplace, now an elaborate chapel within the Baroque church. The chapel is decorated with scenes of the saint demonstrating her powers of levitation.
The Sala de Reliquias contains the relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. The exhibit of St. Teresa's relics include a finger from her right hand, the sole of one of her sandals, her rosary beads and a cord she used to flagellate herself. Also on the site is a small garden where St. Teresa played as a young girl.
St. Teresa's incorrupt heart and arm are enshrined and displayed at the Carmelite convent in the nearby town of Alba de Tormes.
Quick Facts on Convento de Santa Teresa
|Names:||Convent of St. Teresa · Convento de la Santa Teresa · Convento de Santa Teresa|
|Dedication:||St. Teresa of Avila|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||40.655395° N, 4.702320° W|
|Address:||Plaza de la Santa 2|
|Hours:||Museum: May-Sept daily 10am-2pm and 4-5pm; Oct-Apr Tues-Sun 10am-1:30pm and 3:30-5:30pm. |
Sala de Reliquias: daily 9:30am-1:30pm and 3:30-7:30pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near Convento de Santa Teresa|
- Convento de Santa Teresa - TripAdvisor Reviews
- St. Teresa of Avila - Catholic Encyclopedia
- Teresa of Avila - Patron Saints Index
- Province of Avila - Spain.info
- Avila Information and Avila Tourism - World Guides
- Photos of Convento de Santa Teresa - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Convento de Santa Teresa, Avila
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