Saint Teresa of Avila Biography

St. Teresa of Avila was a 16th century Spanish Roman Catholic saint. This biography of St. Teresa of Avila provides detailed information about her childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 28, 1515

Nationality: Spanish

Famous: Philosophers Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Died At Age: 67

Sun Sign: Aries

Also Known As: Teresa of Ávila, Saint Teresa of Jesus, Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada

Born in: Gotarrendura

Famous as: Saint

Died on: October 4, 1582

place of death: Alba de Tormes

Founder/Co-Founder: Discalced Carmelites, Carmelites

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St. Teresa of Avila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a prominent 16th century Spanish Roman Catholic saint. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a period of Catholic revival initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation during the mid-16th century. She was also a mystic and an author and is considered to be the patron saint of Headache sufferers and Spanish Catholic Writers. Born into a religious household, she was raised by strict and devout Christian parents. From a young age she was fascinated by the lives of saints and ran away from home at the age of seven to seek martyrdom among the Moors. She was eventually brought back home but nonetheless continued on her quest for spiritual knowledge. The untimely death of her mother when Teresa was just a teenager intensified her devotion towards God and religion as she instinctively turned to the Virgin Mary for comfort. She later entered a Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila and became a nun. She laid the foundation for the Catholic mendicant order, the Discalced Carmelites, or Barefoot Carmelites, along with another Spanish saint, Saint John of the Cross. She was canonized years after her death and more recently, named a Doctor of the Church.

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Childhood & Early Life
Later Years
  • Even though she had joined the convent to embark on a spiritual life, the environment at the convent was not at all conducive to such pursuits. There was no harmony among the nuns, and the place was crowded with too many visitors. Thus Teresa was unable to concentrate on her prayers and was disappointed that the convent did not help at all in her spiritual progress.
  • In early 1560 she became acquainted with the Franciscan priest Saint Peter of Alcantara, who became her spiritual guide and counselor. Encouraged by him, she now resolved to found a reformed Carmelite convent.
  • She was helped in her objective by Guimara de Ulloa, a wealthy friend who supplied the funds. Teresa also spent years convincing Spanish Jewish converts to follow Christianity.
  • In 1562 she established a new monastery, named St. Joseph's (San José). Though initially the monastery was plagued by financial issues and poverty, she worked hard over the next few years to establish new houses of her order.
  • She established several reform convents at Medina del Campo, Malagón, Valladolid, Toledo, Pastrana, Salamanca, and Alba de Tormes between 1567 and 1571. She was also given the permission to set up two houses for men who wished to adopt the reforms.
  • St. Teresa of Avila spent a great deal of time in solitude contemplating in the name of God. As an author, she is considered one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, a form of prayer whereby one loves God through dialogue and meditating on God's words.
Major Works
  • In 1580 she wrote the ‘Castillo interior/ Las moradas’ (Interior castle/ The mansions) which went on to become her best known literary work. She described the various stages of spiritual evolution leading to full prayer.
  • Another one of her famous works is ‘The Way of Perfection’ in which she describes a method for making progress in the contemplative life. She called this a "living book" as she had detailed the way of progressing through prayer and Christian medication, and also explained the purpose and approaches to spiritual life.
  • Personal Life & Legacy
  • St. Teresa of Avila remained active throughout her life. Even when she was well into her sixties she continued founding convents to promote Roman Catholicism. In fact, the convents in northern Andalusia, Palencia, Soria, and Burgos were founded by her towards the end of her life.
  • During one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes, she became very ill and died on October 4, 1582.
  • Teresa of Avila was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, forty years after her death.
  • In December 1970, Pope Paul VI conferred upon her the papal honor of Doctor of the Church, making her one of the first women to be awarded the distinction.

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